Why aren’t they listening? The little voice in his head asks. In fact, it seems to ask this question a lot in the middle of conversations, or while giving a presentation, or even sometimes at home with the family.
The truth is: “It’s not Them, It’s You”.
Yes sometimes the truth is not what we want to hear. Hey, we all have important things to say and we want to share them with people who ‘need’ to hear them. But sometimes it feels like you’re just speaking into an echo chamber or an empty abyss.
Most, if not all of us, have got that feeling that when you speak, in social setting, in the office or when doing a professional presentation, that you notice people “tuning out” looking over your shoulder at other people, or they don’t seem to remember what you say, or constantly change topic on you? Well the good news is:
1. You are not the only one this happens to AND
2. There is a solution to it that is simple to adopt.
The solution begins with a short 10-minute Ted Talk from Julian Treasure and I found it to be a very simple, yet powerful starting point. Here’s a quick summary, as well as a link to his Talk:
His 7 Sins and and My Comments:
Sometimes you talk and get the feeling that no-one is listening, quite possibly you are committing one or more of the ’7 Deadly Sins’ of conversation. Committing any of these conversational sins shut people down. Combine more than one of them and BOOM, you have people fidgeting and looking for ways to get away. More than 2 and quickly their only thought becomes “how do I get out of this situation?” And thus listen even less to you.
After you read about his 7 Deadly Conversational Sins and watch his Ted Talk, there is an exercise (that lasts a life time) that you can use, as I do. You can begin to observe conversations, presentations and discussions with a new outlook on what works (that’s easy, just pay attention to what’s occurring when you are drawn in) and what doesn’t work (also easy, you will feel yourself repelled or checking out – notice what made you do that in that moment)
Dive into these 7 Sins, and observe how many time YOU commit them, it is quite extraordinary. Awareness is the first step
The 7 Deadly Conversational Sins
1. Gossip (the ongoing habit of speaking about people who aren’t present. You know that as soon as you aren’t around they’ll talk about you that way. This pushes people away, makes people uncomfortable and awkward. All conversation killing emotions. Yet, so many do it, so often. Over-arching listener response: “Hey, we know you talk about us when we’re not around. So I will not be sharing any secrets with you.”)
2. Judging (Another sin that is oft committed is living in the world of ‘judgement.’ You know, those moments when you see someone doing something that doesn’t fit YOUR value system so therefore they must be wrong AND must be told they are wrong. It is either directly to that person OR ties into gossip #1 above. No one likes to be judged or, truthfully no one I want to have in my life likes to hear people being judged)
3. Negativity (Society today has become addicted to Negativity and a negative outlook. It really began to gain momentum in 1980 when this occurred “The Negative Spark” This is not an easy addiction to break and it is pervasive. We all know people who’s whole outlook seems to be finding ways to turn every moment into a reason why it is not good. YUCK! What a conversation killer, that is unless you want to surround yourself with other negative people, you can attract them like flies by speaking (or writing on a blog) negatively. It is frankly one of the laziest forms of conversation)
4. Complaining (We’ve all been cornered by the incessant complainer and know how uncomfortable it is – yet we do it ourselves. Sure we all need time and a place to vent, but if that is your major conversation pattern, no wonder people ‘check out. Their thought is: ‘Either do something to fix it – or stop talking about it.”)
5. Excuses (Those conversations where anything bad or difficult is blamed on someone or something else. Excuses are an avoidance of responsibility tactic that makes the speaker ‘feel better’ as they deflect. In reality: ““Excuses are the tools of the weak and incompetent. Used to build monuments of nothingness and bridges to nowhere. Those who use them seldom excel in anything else but excuses”)
6. Lying - (when will Liars figure out it is just too difficult to keep all the lies straight and the web eventually catches them. PS, mos of us can see right through them – we just don’t say anything because we are polite or it is not worth the effort)
7. Dogmatism (mixing up facts and opinion. Today’s society is now based of who’s dogma is yelled the loudest, protested the most, gets the most ‘eyeballs’ in media. “Facts be damned – get loud! Seems to be the new mantra Yes, this also started to really gain momentum in 1980 with the advent of 24 hour news channel. Want to stand out? Simply work to getting the conversation towards actual facts. By the way, your Dogma will always end up making a mess in your home)
Your voice Is An Instrument – Learn to Play It!
Get heard, be engaging, have people interested in you, not in what THEY are going to say next. One way is to enhance your speech patterns. Pay close attention to your:
1. Register – a voice, less shrill, coming from the chest or diaphragm always carries more power and authority. Sadly , when people get worked up, or are emotional their voices slip up into their throat and this pushes people away, so their solution is…
2. Lack of Volume control – If you want to be heard, speak more quietly and with a voice not coming from your throat. Speaking quietly (and less often) makes people lean in and be interested and engaged. Louder, especially consistently loud, is boorish and offensive to the listener. It pushes people away, mentally and physically. A simple test – how do you respond to commercials on TV or radio that seem to be yelling/commanding. MUTE BUTTON. That’s what consistent high volume does to conversation – people are scrambling for their virtual mute button Don’t broadcast loudly all the time.
3. Timbre – how the voice feels or sounds – distinct from tone or loudness.
4. Use a deliberate prosody style – the sing-song or up and down of the vocal pattern – this is the exact opposite of monotone. Some problems are an upward inflection at the end of every sentence to make everything a question? This habit actually makes you seem unconfident, always looking for ‘confirmation. Take a listen to voices and presentations and conversations you are drawn into.
5. Too much, or not enough, Pace. Use pace to your advantage, not to your detriment. Yes, your brain is going 1,000 miles per hour, but that doesn’t mean that you mouth needs to. But don’t slow to the pace where the others in the conversation begin to fill words for you to get you moving more quickly. Use a combination of a rapid pace, then a slowing down for emphasis and interject pauses occasionally along the way.
When we have something to say, we all like to be heard. There are ways (the 7 Sins) that are holding you back, there are 5 Vocal Strategies that can propel you forward and in all cases Use these Positive Conversation Tools:
Honesty – be true and clear with what you mean
Authenticity – be yourself, stand in your own truth
Integrity – do what you say, be trustworthy
Love – wish people well
Watch this vid, adopt these strategies, analyze conversation you hear or are involved in and you too will be heard, remembered and engaged with.
Hope you have found this helpful. Please share it if you have, and comment below with your own thoughts and experiences (I guarantee I’ll listen )
Julian Treasure Ted Talk
And visit me over at my Facebook Page to “Engage in Lively Conversation”