What continues to surprise me is how passive we can be when it comes to listening, and how automatic we think listening is even though, to truly listen, it requires awareness, space, energy and practice.
Equally, it’s amazing how often we assume our requests can be heard while ignoring the capacity of others to listen to what we’re asking.
You made a request by email
If your recipient didn’t read it, didn’t see it, or is overwhelmed by emails and messages, as so many people are, you probably don’t have a listener, no matter how many times you insist that you’ve asked, or how sure you are that they should have read what you said.
You asked at a time when the other person couldn’t pay attention
If they’re busy, anxious, fearful, or distracted, then just because you’ve spoken, again, doesn’t mean you have a listener. Even asking someone face to face who is distracted this way does not guarantee they have any capacity to hear you.
You assumed the other person should be interested in what you have to say simply because of who you are
Your seniority, personality, position of authority, sense of yourself as interesting or important are no guarantee anyone is listening. Neither is being a parent or a partner or the boss. Assuming you do have a listener for this reason is a route to many difficulties.
Can you think of times you might have asked when there’s no listener available, even if the request seems obvious to you? And if so, what might you do to make it possible for people to genuinely hear you?
You might need to think about timing, place, tone and the medium through which you make your request, as well as the mood of your request (sincerity, cynicism, frustration).
All of these will have an impact on others’ capacity to listen. If you find yourself thinking “I’ve asked them time and time again, but nothing ever seems to happen” you might well still be assuming you have a listener when you don’t.
Some ideas to help others listen:
- Build relationships with those around you
- Cut to the chase
- Believe you deserve to be heard
- Stop mindless chatter
- Remove distractions from the environment
What ideas might you have that you’re willing to try in order to be heard?
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