At first glance, listening seems like a non-issue – it is something we do most of the day, every day. But things aren’t always that simple. Listening is not the same with hearing, as hearing someone does not suffice to actually understand them. Listening requires focus and will. First of all you have to want to listen, and then you need the ability to actually do it.
At the same time, listening plays a major role in communication. In the world of business, effective communication is absolutely crucial. So one of the skills that any entrepreneur, leader, and professional should possess is knowing how to make people to listen to them. This is the theme of today’s article, so I invite you to read forward and learn how to get people to listen to you.
How to get people to actually listen
Here are some simple techniques to get people to listen to what you are saying, not simply hearing your words.
1. Listen more
On average, people spend about 70 to 80 percent of their day involved in some kind of communication. Listening takes up about 55% of one’s time. With an average attention span of only 25 minutes, it means that most of the information we hear doesn’t stick. So if you want to be listened to, you will need to cut right to the chase. Be concise and make good use of the 25 minutes you have until the listeners start losing focus.
“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” — Stephen R. Covey
You might think that explaining things to the tiniest detail will make people understand you better. However, that is not always true. People get confused when receiving too much information at a time and their focus shifts to simpler stuff. So, instead of talking more, try talking less and allow people to ask questions. By focusing on transmitting only the key information you encourage listeners to ask questions, and actually pay attention to your answers.
2. Talk less about you
The reality is that in business and work environments, people are rarely interested to hear about yourself and what you do.
Actually, Ryan Fold — author, communication specialist at UCI, and TEDx Talk speaker — claims that one of the most important communication challenges is answering the question “What do you do?” Fold noticed that most entrepreneurs’ answers were so long and detailed that usually created even more confusion around the subject. Therefore, he developed the 3-1-3 method to make business communication more effective. The method is comprised of three simple steps:
- Question to be answered: “What are the most core principles of your idea, i.e., the problem you are solving, the solution you are offering, and the market you are addressing?”
- Answer should be no longer than one sentence for each: problem, solution, market.
- Finally, all three answers should be reduced to a single sentence.
If you want people to listen and understand your message, this single sentence should replace the long and confusing responses you used to give.
3. Pay attention to nonverbal communication
Communication is more than the words we are saying and the sounds that we hear. In face to face interactions, nonverbal communication is primordial in delivering our message. The tone of our voice, our body language, facial expressions, and gestures are all very important parts of communication. The way you stand, the way you look, and even the way you move gives the other person cues about your intentions, your honesty, and your self-trust. While words can be deceiving, nonverbal communication cannot be faked.
If you want to make people listen, you need to transmit that what you are saying is true and important. You’ll be perceived as confident and honest if you:
- keep a steady tone
- avoid repetitions
- make eye contact
- stand straight
- keep your chin up
This will be sending your interlocutor the message that you are well prepared with valuable information.
4. Put the important stuff in writing
Given the short attention span, and the fact that people only remember about 35% of what they hear, the safest way to make sure you have actually transmitted the important stuff is by putting the key elements in writing. That’s one of the reasons why nowadays many companies use team collaboration apps, such as Hubgets, instead of face to face meetings.
However, even during classic meetings, presentations combine verbal and written communication. Information that is written down is accessible to anyone at any time, which makes it harder to get lost or forgotten.
5. Listen to others
Actively listening to others allows you to create a relationship with your dialogue partner. Give them your undivided attention, ask questions and summarize what you hear to show them you are really taking an interest in what they have to say. Most people become more interested in listening to someone who shows preoccupation for their problems and listens to them in return.
Furthermore, by listening to other people you can learn a lot about them, which can be very helpful when it’s your time to do the talking. Framing the conversation in a manner that will be interesting for your interlocutor is guaranteed to get them to actually listen to you.
6. Build relationships
People are more likely to listen to those whom they trust and respect. Talking to those you already know – be it family, friends, or employees – is a lot easier than talking to an audience for the first time. People tend to be skeptical towards the unknown. Therefore, it is important to get to know your audience beforehand.
When you are pitching an idea to someone, one of the most important steps in the preparation process is learning about the people you are pitching to. That is because finding common ground with your audience is the best way to create a connection, and build a relationship that will make them actually listen to you.
We are all humans
All in all, listening, just like talking, and any other form of communication is about human interaction. Getting people to listen to you shouldn’t be very difficult as long as you treat everyone with respect and follow the social norms that apply to the context.
Do you have other strategies to get people to listen to you? If you do, we would appreciate if you shared them with us. If you don’t, apply the advice you read above and let us know how it went!