Skip to main content

How to Speak So Others Hear You

     I was coaching a director once who had one of her supervisors quit abruptly.  She complained that the supervisor hardly did what she'd asked her to anyway so "good riddance".  She met with me to try to brainstorm some ideas around how to engage employees better.  As she spoke for about five to eight minutes uninterrupted, I noticed something that might lend itself to the reason why the supervisor rarely did what was asked of her and quite possibly why she left.  The director's comments went like this:  "I've been thinking about some things that I think will help my team...I'm not quite sure if they'll buy it, but...well before I tell you that, I was thinking...I just want to have you as a sounding board.  Sometimes it's so difficult to get it all out...let me know if you agree with this...I haven't tried it yet, frank in your feedback because I want to make know what I'm saying?"  In short, the answer was "no".  I did not know what she was saying because she hadn't said anything yet.  In fact, I'd stopped listening minutes ago.  I can't help but wonder if that's why the supervisor didn't do what she was asked.  Maybe she had no clue what the director was asking!  Clear communications is an important part of being heard.
     When you don't feel heard, what could you be doing that prevents the listener from wanting to sit up and take notice?  There are a whole host of barriers we self-impose, but I'm going to deal with three.  Read with your own communications habits in mind.
     First, when you need to command attention, make sure you're saying something important.  Far too often, we waste other people's time with idle chatter.  Taking time out to shoot the breeze is fine when time is on your side.  But with most people's time a limited resource these days, nobody wants to squander the little they have by listening to another person who is talking a lot but saying nothing.  Even if someone has the luxury of time on their hands, they could find plenty of other things to do than listen to your meaningless and meandering musings.  Speak of things that are important to them.  Give them useful information that will somehow peak their interest and give them pause.  Make them think.  Make their minds transfer your information to something applicable in their lives.
     Second, articulate what you need to say clearly and without clutter.  For example, imagine you are cleaning out a room in your house that had managed to become a stockpile of worthless items amid some valuable, useful objects you wanted to keep.  As you are finding the valuable items and hauling out the worthless ones, a friend who is helping you keeps hauling back in the stuff you've thrown out.  Such is the case with language.  We clutter up our messages with worthless words, thoughts, ideas, and intentions that only serve to weaken our conversations.  Toss out the trash, and keep only those things that will make people stop and pay attention to what you have to say.
     Finally, make sure your conversation evokes an action or reaction.  If you're making a request, ask for what you want to have done clearly.  Don't hem and haw around the question, be direct.  If you're interjecting humor, then make sure it's funny enough to elicit a chuckle or smile at least.  Misplaced humor or an unfunny comment will make people want to end the conversation immediately.  If you seek to inspire and encourage, then make your words and phrases those that will evoke those emotions.  When it's important and you need to be heard, you must make sure that on that particular time, your words matter.
     When you do this consistently, people will be ready to hear from you almost every time.  They will know that when you speak, you usually have something worthwhile to say even if it's casual.  They will give you their full attention, and you will be heard.


Popular posts from this blog

He Said, She Said

It seems like everywhere we turn today in the news, there are accusations being made between men and women.  Those accusations are of a serious nature and are costing people on both sides in life-altering ways.  Sexual misconduct and abuse, physical abuse, and gender bias are among the many claims being made mostly by women against men.  These men are usually in positions of power.  Therefore, they are in a prime position to commit the crimes and bad behavior they are accused of without a lot of resistance initially from their victims.
     But something has happened lately.  What was once too shameful to speak about out loud is now front and center for all the world to see.  What was perpetrated behind closed doors has now been shoved out in the open by a chorus of voices saying it happened to #MeToo.  One of the difficult angles in these revelations is how the rest of us receives these stories.  Many people without hesitation take sides with the women who are accusing the men.…

What It Means to Speak Truth to Power

"Speaking truth to power" has become a common phrase to use when speaking about truth and/or power in a discussion that encourages courageous discourse on controversial matters.  It is an old phrase coined back in the 1950s by the Quakers and is defined as "a non-violent political tactic, employed by dissidents against the received wisdom or propaganda of governments they regard as oppressive, authoritarian or an ideocracy." (Wikipedia)
     I've heard it overused in a lot of ways and not with a clear purpose in its meaning within the context of what was being spoken.  We latch onto certain words and phrases as language goes in and out of style on almost a monthly basis.  In this current generation, there seems to be a new word or phrase created daily and then abandoned when they become overused like worn out sneakers from last year's fall collection.  But words have staying power even if you get tired of hearing them.  They last even longer if they m…

What Your Face is Saying About Your Attitude

I once coached a front office person on the importance of customer service excellence.  She was the greeter of new and established clients when they walked through the front door.  Bottom line, she was not suited for that portion of the job.  Though she was organized, diligent, detail-oriented, and punctual, she lacked skills on the people side of her job.  She struggled with making clients feel warm and welcome in the business.  Her phone skills were also lacking because the tone of her voice, though calm, was not pleasant.  I talked to her about the simple act of smiling.  Of course it shows up on the face, but it's also heard in the voice.  With a blank look and absolutely no inflection in her voice, she said, "But I am smiling."  Insert emoji with the surprised look here.      I thought she was joking at first, but she was serious--about smiling.  One of her greatest challenges was that of so many of us--a lack of self-awareness.  She had no idea what she looke…