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Make yourself heard
May 24, 2013, 1:40 pm


If you ever feel as if you are speaking with the mute button on, here is how to get people to listen.

Some people, it seems, could command attention while reciting a list of fertilizer chemicals; others are ignored no matter what they have to say. There's a whole skill set involved in being heard and it all starts with noticing how others are reacting to you.

When you are trying to be helpful, do others avoid making eye contact with you? Do they interrupt or show little interest in your point of view? You may be coming across as a know-it-all, or your advice could sound like criticism. Eventually people may stop listening to your ideas altogether. Next time you have a suggestion, try asking, ‘Would you like to know what I think?’ Or ‘I have a different perspective—would you like to hear it?’

While you are talking, do people check their BlackBerries or make you feel like you are wasting their time? You may be losing your audience due to a discrepancy in communication styles. Some people respond to emotion and storytelling, while others need you to get to the point. Note how fast the other person speaks and try to match his speed: If you talk too slowly to a fast-paced communicator, his mind may wander; if you talk too rapidly to a slower-paced person, he may feel flustered and tune out.

Do friends drift off while you are pouring your heart out? Many people like to commiserate—talking about problems not in order to fix them but simply to share them as a way to reduce stress. But some people—particularly men—hear such talk as a burdensome request for help. Let your friend or coworker know that you just want to vent for a few minutes about what's going on and tell him that he doesn't have to say or do anything about it. That releases him from assuming that he must offer a solution.

 No matter what, you can't go wrong by showing interest in what other people say and making them feel important. In other words, the better you listen, the more you will be listened to. 

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