Do you ever feel as if people are just tuning you out?
You talk and talk. You’re passionate. It’s so clear how important what you have to say is–at least how important it is to you. Yet, you might as well be talking to a statute for all the response, empathy, or understanding you’re getting, or more precisely, not getting.
If you sense you’re not getting through to the person you’re talking to, chances are you’re right. You can have the most important things in the world to say, but saying them doesn’t guarantee anyone’s listening. You can see you’re not making an impact, which usually gets you aggravated, frustrated, maybe even angry, so you start repeating yourself, or get louder or more intense, as if you can force your words into their brains and make them listen. Even worse, you might give up, shut up, and feel rejected. When there’s a failure to communicate, have you considered that the problem may not lie in what you’re saying, but in the fact that you’re not speaking the other person’s “language?”
When you try to talk about something that’s really important to you, what you say might as well be in a foreign tongue if you neglect to consider the needs and perspective of the person you’re talking to. Have you ever gotten the blank stare or the rhythmic head nod with a faint smile as you chatter on? Do you find yourself dominating the conversation, because the other person isn’t really interjecting any responses or comments? The brutal truth is, they’re not fascinated; they’re mentally checked out. You’ve lost them. It’s at that moment you need to consider a course correction in getting to your intended destination.
To effectively connect with another person, you have to put yourself in their shoes and figure out what it takes to make them want to listen to you. This isn’t easy, because you’re the one with the agenda. What you have to say is important to you, so you naturally think it will be important to the person you’re telling it to. But that’s often not the case.
Look at it this way: If I speak English, but I want to communicate with a guy who speaks German, I can’t expect him to learn English so he can understand me. I’m the one who wants to talk. I’m the one who knows what I’m about to say and why it’s important. The German guy has no idea what he’s about to hear, so he has no incentive to try to understand me. The burden is on me to learn his language, not the other way around. If I can’t learn how to speak enough German to get my message across, I have to find some other way to connect, like use charades, draw pictures, act it out, whatever it takes to find a common “language” we both understand.
To be a more successful communicator, match your delivery style to the other person’s style, and not force your style on them. If you’re a loud and assertive personality trying to talk to a shy
, reserved person, you’ll have to tone it down if you want to be heard and not shut out. If you’re laid back and want to talk to someone with high energy and a fast-paced lifestyle, you’ll need to speed up your delivery or their mind will be 20 paces down the line to the next thing they need to get to, leaving you and your conversation in the dust. If you’re an emotional person trying to talk to someone who sees life logically, you’ll have to edit out the emotional drama to be taken seriously. Ultimately, you’ll just end up talking to yourself if you try to force another person down your path of communication instead of making the effort to travel with them down theirs.
Also consider if whether or not you’re picking the right person
, time, and place for what you’re saying. If you’re at a social gathering, it’s one thing to make light conversation about the latest political scandal or how the economy is tanking or your boss is a jerk, but “light” is the thing to remember. If you’re at a doctor’s office, in line at the food store, sitting in a plane, even on the job with co-workers, it’s okay to pass the time with pleasant talk, but strangers or friendly acquaintances generally don’t want to hear about your back problems, your ex-spouse alienating your kids from you, your progress in therapy, or any other intimate details that should be reserved for only your most trusted confidants. It’s not about what you’re comfortable discussing; it’s about what the other person is comfortable about hearing.
When you want to get your message across to another person, ask yourself a few questions beforehand. What does this discussion mean to them? Are you imposing your view, needs, anxiety, anger, or other agenda onto them, and if so, is this something they want to hear? Are they even the right person who should be hearing it? If you’re trying to help them with what you’re saying, what makes you think they’re at all interested, as opposed to just politely tolerating you? Have you taken into account their personality and communication style and made an effort to speak in their “language”?
If you feel people aren’t really listening when you talk, you’re not cursed. Try a course correction that aligns you’re message more with the path they’re on than your own.
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