If a Tree Falls in the Forest…Who’s Listening?

Besides being a better listener, as I discussed in a prior post, you need to be heard.  Why am I being ignored?  How come no one uses my ideas?  It might be time to look in the mirror…or watch a video tape of you.  How are you being you?  Think about who you listen to intently and who you ignore.  What about the guy who is completely self-absorbed and can only talk about himself?  His new car.  His vacation to Hawaii.  His awesome project that was implemented without a hitch.  I’m already making my grocery list and thinking about if I should DVR Downton Abbey remotely.  Or better yet.  I’m planning my escape from the conversation.  Didn’t I have an appointment at 10:18 a.m….precisely? Tree falls in the forest

There is the Rambler.  This is your neighbor who (as we say here in Eastern Carolina) “goes all the way to Savannah and back” before getting to the point.  There is the Chronologizer, someone who tells every detail regardless of its importance, in step by step chronological order.  This is one small step away from the Rambler but (for me) is far more excruciating as all the details wear out my patience.   Or the Linguist.  We might both be speaking English but they are using all sorts of acronyms and industry lingo that I end up being lost after “hello”. My point is (before I get to Savannah), if you need to be heard, make your message hearable.  Make your information or idea or instruction or feedback, easily digestible, accessible and memorable.

Here are some hints for how to be heard:

1.  Paint.  Paint a picture.  Using visual words helps our brain remember the information.  It stands out.  As David Rock recommends in “Quiet Leadership“, when we use visual words or metaphors “we are connecting with our own mental maps, then helping other people make their own mental maps for our ideas”.  Get out your watercolors and start painting.

2. Precise. Use precise words.  This can be hard on the fly (or maybe it’s just my middle aged brain) but be as specific as possible with your words.  For example, if you compliment your friend, you could say “you look great today”.  Or “that blouse is stunning on you, the blue really brings out your eyes”.  Which is more effective?  The more precise one is.

3. Surgical.  Be surgical with your words.  Slice it down to one sentence; maybe two.  It has more value and impact when you get directly to the point.  Be surgical.

4. Audience.  Know your audience.  As a Human Resource Executive if I start spewing all the alphabet soup of labor law acronyms (i.e. FMLA, FLSA, EEOC, ADAAA, OSHA…get the picture?), I will lose the audience unless I am at a SHRM conference.  Don’t feel like you need to raise yourself above the level of those around you by bringing out the industry lingo.  Leave it in your office and speak English.  Or at least check in with your audience to make sure they understand your message.  Adjust for your audience.

5. Sign posts.  Leave some sign posts along the way.  If you are working with a group or trying to move a discussion forward, try and restate what you have already accomplished.  In the NeuroLeadership Group training for Results Based Coaching course, they referred to this as placement.  It’s kind of like leaving breadcrumbs so you know where you have been and where you are going.  “So Suzy had some ideas on computer software we could you use and is willing to research options and Joe really likes the idea of sending out a survey to the customer service team.  Can we move on to other ideas?”  Suzy and Joe feel recognized and acknowledged.  The team can move on.  Leave some sign posts.

6. Them. It’s always about them.  If it’s about them and you aren’t being selfish (i.e. making sure you have the last word, making a joke at the other’s expense), people will listen to you.  There is an old ad line “When EF Hutton speaks, people listen”.  Odds are that EF Hutton was focused on their clients and doing a lot of listening.  If you focus on them, when you finally speak, they will listen.

7. Real. If there is an opportunity – Be real. Be vulnerable.  Be authentic.  This attracts attention and trust.  But you can’t fake it.  Isn’t this part of the reason that Oprah has a legion of followers?  If she was battling weight or sharing personal demons, she was being authentic and building trust.  If you are real; they will listen.

Being ignored can be painful and turning the ship around can take more than just one tug boat.  It’s a slow process and one that takes patience.  But it is possible to be heard.

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