By: Steven Gaffney
Have you ever tried to talk to someone while he or she answered e-mail? Or tried to discuss dinner plans with your boyfriend while he was sitting on the couch watching football? To use one of my favorite lines from Dr. Phil: “How’s that working for you?”
I do personal coaching with a lot of women, and one of the most common complaints I hear is this: “He doesn’t listen to me, what do I do?” It’s disheartening to say something important (or even something unimportant) and then realize the person you’re talking to hasn’t heard anything you’ve said. We all want to be listened to.
Perhaps you don’t experience this trouble in your personal relationships but you do at work. Maybe you’ve had the experience of walking into your boss’s office to discuss something and found her busily preparing for a meeting. She says, “I’ve got five minutes, go ahead and tell me what’s on your mind.” And you try, but when you ask her a question as she’s gathering her presentation materials, you realize she’s not really focused on you because she’s not responding to you.
The good news is you don’t have to experience this again. If you have trouble getting the focused attention you need from the people you’re talking to, I’ve got a few easy tips that will help you.
- Don’t even attempt to have a discussion when the other person is busy. If your boyfriend says he can talk while he’s shopping online for his mother’s birthday present, tell him you can wait.
- Stop talking when the person you’re talking to isn’t listening. If the person is looking at the TV or the computer or texting on their phone, stop talking. This technique alone may take care of the problem.
- Schedule time to talk. This is a great tip for parents who rarely have an uninterrupted moment when they’re at home.
- If you need to talk with someone who is easily distracted, get them out of their usual environment. So if you need to talk with a work associate who can’t ever seem to ignore his phone or e-mail, schedule a time to get some coffee together and ask him to leave his phone in the office for fifteen minutes.
Another technique that can be quite effective when someone isn’t listening to you is to ask open-ended questions. The idea is to get the other person to do the talking to break them out of the mode of “listening.” I used this one just the other day. I was talking with a friend on the phone and I could tell he wasn’t really listening to me. So I said, “Hey, tell me what is going on with work?” He started to answer, sort of stumbling along, and then he admitted, “You know, this isn’t really a good time to talk. Can we talk later?” It’s that simple.
Not being fully listened to when you’re talking can lead to feelings of rejection. If it happens frequently, it may take away your sense of empowerment. But honestly, the power is in your hands. So if you find yourself thinking, “He never listens to me,” consider trying these simple techniques. Why accept anything less than your listener’s full attention?