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Alex Hillman

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Why aren’t people listening to you?

2 minute read
by Alex Hillman

It shouldn’t be so hard to get people’s attention.

You have got ideas. You have suggestions. You have something you want to share. 

“Just speak up”, some people might tell you. “Don’t be shy.” 

Is shyness really the problem? It might be…but more likely, the problem is it that you don’t know how to communicate so that people will listen to what you have to say.

Here’s 4 techniques that I like to recommend for communicating so that you’ll be heard. 

1. Don’t just listen for your turn to talk

Listen to what people are saying.

What are they feeling? What’s good? What’s not good? What makes them happy? What makes them anxious? Who do they turn to for help? And, most subtly…what’s not being said.

You can learn a lot about what to say by listening to others in your community. 

The rule of thumb I like to remember is that we have two ears and one mouth: that means we should be listening at least twice as much as we talk. 

2. Speak in stories

People think in stories, but more importantly, people relate in stories. When we hear a story, we immediately look for the character that reminds us of ourselves…of a feeling we’ve had (or wanted to have), or an experience we’ve had (or wanted to have). 
When you’re listening, pay attention for other peoples’ stories (both in and outside of your community. You don’t need to remember all of the details so much as you need to remember the point of the story (the plot) and the “characters”. 
When you’re speaking, if you can use their story to illustrate your point, you’ll demonstrate that you actually listen AND provide a relatable reference point. 
3. Be vulnerable

Don’t worry about being perfect. Your imperfections remind others that you’re human (and you are human). Letting down your guard will also allow others in the community to be more comfortable letting their guard down to you. Faking this won’t work – you have to be genuine. 

The simplest way to be vulnerable is to ask for help – help that you really need.

4. Be generous

When someone else asks for help, go back to point #1: make sure you’re actually listening for what they need help with. 

Many times, they may not know what they need help with yet. They may think it’s one thing but it’s actually another. Either way, remember that by them asking for help, they are being vulnerable. 

So be kind. Listen deep.

When you do all of these things, speaking up about your own ideas and thoughts starts to come a lot more naturally…and more importantly, you’ve begun to earn the trust and credibility that lets people know you’re worth listening to.

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Alex Hillman I am always thinking about the intersection of people, relationships, trust and business. I founded Indy Hall in 2006, making us one of oldest fully independent coworking communities in the world. This site is packed with the lessons and examples I’ve learned along the way. You can find me on Twitter, too! 🐦 Say hi.