“Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person, they are almost indistinguishable.” –David W. Ausburger

How often do you feel like you’ve gotten ignored or perhaps not even noticed?

Do you get interrupted or are your points not responded to in conversation?

Do you have to repeat yourself often?

Maybe you feel like people don’t reach out to you or pull you into conversations…

Essentially, how often do you feel unheard?

You’ve heard us say this already, but conversation is a cooperative, collaborative activity. While listening is about the other person, remembering to make space for ourselves in a conversation is essential.

It can be very difficult to feel heard or listened to! Especially when we are intentionally practicing listening ourselves and notice how often others miss the mark when listening to us.

Luckily, there are some techniques you can use to be a better communicator and increase the likelihood of not only feeling listened to and heard, but being understood.

Listen to yourself FIRST

What are you thinking, feeling, needing? What is influencing your current thoughts or state? What’s under that, and then what is under that? When we know ourselves well, we can communicate more clearly. Think of someone saying, “I’m good,” versus saying, “I had a relaxed yet productive morning and I’m feeling content.” Listening to yourself can help you find the why behind a more detailed what, which if you communicate that, will increase the likelihood of you being understood.

Speak unarguably

We often make statements that are disputable judgments and therefore carry less weight or cause the listener to internally (or externally) question us. When we speak unarguably, we express ourselves in terms that cannot be debated by another person. Speaking unarguably means owning our thoughts, feelings, and sensations instead of passing judgment on something outside of us.

  • “I’m interpreting that in a way that makes me feel sad,” versus “That’s an awful thing to say”
  • “I notice a tightness in my shoulders when we talk about this topic,” versus “This topic is unethical”
  • “I have the story that you don’t care about me,” versus “You don’t care about me”
  • “I think this is the best day ever,” versus “This is the best day ever”

The Conscious Leadership Group has an excellent printout guide to this process here.

Speak in a way that they understand

Think about how that person communicates. Do they speak in metaphor? Do they use a lot of numbers or figures to express or support ideas? Do they talk mostly about their feelings? The way they express themselves is often an indication of how they understand the world. Shifting your style of communication to match theirs may make it easier for them to understand you.

Check for clarification

After you’ve expressed something, simply ask the person if they understood you. Sometimes asking them to repeat it back to you in their own words can be helpful. That could be awkward in an informal setting, so use this technique as it feels appropriate. Hint: It’s helpful to use a Quality Question here; avoid yes/no questions. “What did you hear me say?” “What questions do you have about that?” “What did you get from that?” “How did you interpret that?”

Prioritize vulnerability over bravado

As we mention here, vulnerability increases intimacy and interest. Acting like we’ve got everything together can turn people off, whereas showing others that we are human and have challenges just like them increases connection.

Make space for yourself when it isn’t given

Sometimes we may feel unnoticed or ignored and operate under the impression that it is the other person(s) responsibility to acknowledge or include us. This assumption can lead to resentment and projection. If feeling unseen or unheard in a conversation, you can always reveal how you’re feeling and make a request, or if that feels inappropriate, interject of your own accord and involve yourself.

Aim to meet the Unconscious Expectations and show consideration for the listener

Speak only truth, offer only new information, be brief, make sense, and make sure it’s relevant to the person you’re sharing it with.

Avoid judgment, complaining, gossiping, interrupting, and repeating yourself.

Try It Out

Reflect: How often do you feel unheard or unseen? What habits do you have that you think might contribute to this experience?

Practice: Think of a situation in which you often don’t feel acknowledged, but trust the people involved. This could be when you go out with a new group of people, in meetings at work, or perhaps at the dinner table with family.

Choose two of the 7 ways from above; ie., Making space for yourself and asking for clarity after you’ve spoken.

Make plans within the next week where you can put yourself in this exact situation- and yes, we know how awful that might sound. Think of this as an experiment, and make sure you choose people you feel safe with. The time allotted doesn’t have to be more than an hour.

Throughout the time you spend with them, consciously put an effort into practicing the two ways you chose.

Afterwards, reflect on how it went.

  • How did it go?
  • Did you get different results than you usually do?
  • What would you change if you did it again?

How to speak so that people want to listen | Julian Treasure
Businessman and speaker Julian Treasure talks about habits we have while speaking that make others not want to listen to us, like gossiping, exaggerating, and judging. He advocates for expressing ourselves according to the acronym HAIL: Honesty, Authenticity, Integrity, and Love.

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