New Business Revolution

A blog by Peter Stinckens

Why don’t people listen to you?

listening1Do you recognize the situation? You talk to someone. You explain it all in great detail. And later you notice that they didn’t hear you or misunderstood you. Frustrating, to say the least.

Why don’t people understand you, why don’t they listen to what you have to say? There are several explanations for that. But the main reason is preoccupation. People will not listen when they have something to say themselves.

Due to the limits of our working memory, that can focus on only one thing at the time (the very reason why multitasking is impossible for us, even if we think we can, but that’s another story).

A thought experiment

Imagine for a moment that you’ve made a serious mistake. You know everyone knows about it. And just then, your boss enters and asked you to join him in his office for a moment.

What will you think? Right, he’s going chew you out about that mistake. So you’ll start preparing your defense. You start thinking about explanations, excuses, reasons and circumstances.

Then your boss starts to speak. No matter what he says, you’ll be preoccupied with your own thoughts. Your brain will find a way to construct an interpretation that will make you understand everything he says in function of that preoccupation. (I’ve tried this a few times in real live situations, and it always works.)

The limits of your willingness to listen

Given the fact that we can only focus on one thing at the time (believe me, nobody can focus on more then one thing, regardless of what some of us think), in stands to reason that if we want people to listen with the right focus, so they understand our message the way it was intended, we have to help them do so.

In other word, you could say we need to get into people’s brains, and change their focus. That sounds like a job for a neurosurgeon or another brain specialist, but you can do it aswell, without scalpels or fMRI scan.

How to make people listen

Understanding all this, your path of action is clear. What you have to do is clear their minds and get them to focus on what you have to say, and the context that you want them to understand it in. Now, how can you do this;

First let them talk. Allow them to speak their mind. Listen, ask questions and – most important – repeat what they have said in your own words and ask if you’ve understood it right. If you have, great! If not, ask questions again and repeat.

When, and only when, they have indicated that your assessment of their message is right, you can go on. If it’s something that you’re expected to give an answer to, do so. And make sure that your answer is good enough to lift that concern from their minds.

Now you are ready to deliver your message. Now people will listen. Now their minds are ‘cleared’ and ready to accept your message.

Want to know how to do that? The first online training program “high performance communication” will be available on mailmentor.eu starting next week. There you can learn everything you need to know about how to make people listen and many other aspects of communication.

You can find more information here

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This entry was posted on 14 August 2014 by in Brain stuff, Management and tagged , , .
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