In a previous article, I explored the importance of listening to create connection. The other side of the equation is often neglected: how to speak in a manner that reduces others’ defensiveness and invites them toward us.

Here are four tips for speaking in ways that increase your chances of getting heard:

Nearly 7 percent of adults worldwide have ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder). It is more common in men. But even without this diagnosis, it's difficult for many of us to sustain attention when others are speaking.

Many have speculated that the human attention span has shrunk since the dawning of the internet. If you find that someone doesn't listen well, perhaps they have an attentional challenge. Or maybe they’ve had hard day, or it’s just late and they’re tired (yes, timing can make a difference).

But here's the thing: It is empowering to realize there are adjustments you might make in order to get heard:

Oftentimes in my couples therapy sessions, I hear accusations like: “My feelings just aren’t important to you! If you were less self-centered (or tired, grumpy, etc.), you’d listen better.” Such shaming and critical jabs are more likely to shut people down than perk up their listening.

Granted, many of us could use an upgrade in our listening capacity. But it may be unfair and inaccurate to assume that they don't care about you. It could simply be that there’s a limit to their ability to follow your story or content.

Perhaps they can practice patience and return their attention when it wanders. And perhaps you can work on brevity and pausing.

It’s not an easy thing to change our personality, which includes the pace and manner of our speaking. Yet it might help your communication to speak more mindfully. In Buddhist psychology, “skillful speech” includes being mindful of your speech—having spaciousness around your words.

Part of being skillful is speaking in a concise and clear manner as much as possible. Talking more slowly might also help. Without being overly self-conscious, can you practice using fewer words to make your point? What’s the crux of what you want to say? Brevity is golden.

Many people speak rapidly and forcefully without pausing. It’s almost as if they’re not breathing. Life comes from inhaling and exhaling. As speaker, you may be exhaling words without resourcing yourself with refreshing breaths. People might experience you as chattering or verbally steamrolling, rather than communicating.

Listen to yourself when speaking. Stay in your body and breathe. Pausing lets you catch your breath. Is there something at the edge of your awareness that wants to be felt and shared?

Pausing also helps the listener. They may need some space to absorb what you’re saying. It also gives them a chance to notice what’s getting touched in them as you speak. If you continue for too long, they may lose something important they want to share, which could have deepened the interaction.

Two things are happening in any verbal interaction: the content and your feelings about it. By sharing too much content, you risk losing their attention. Pausing allows you to feel into what you’ve just said—and listen for the “more” you might want to convey. Moving from content to feelings, or toggling between both, is more engaging for everyone.

There’s what happened—your hard day at work, a difficult interaction with someone, a health concern—and then there’s how that's living in your body. Contacting and revealing your feelings draws people in. It tells them how you were affected by what happened.

By being present with your feelings, not only will you be more connected to yourself, but you’re creating a climate for more connection and intimacy.

For example, something more clarifying might unfold as you explain how your boss criticized you unfairly:

“Well, what really bothers me is not so much that my boss was being a jerk, but that his criticism triggered old feelings of shame and not being good enough.”

Showing authentic feelings and vulnerability has a way of arousing someone’s attention and caring.

We may be so eager to be heard that we overwhelm our listener. Perhaps they’ve had a busy day and you’ve been alone and want conversation. These are things you can work out—finding some path forward that works for both of you.

During a pause (when you realize you’ve been talking a fair amount), you might check in, asking questions such as:

Such questions at appropriate moments signal that you want to stay connected during the conversation. You’re curious about how you’re being received and are willing to make adjustments to keep the conversation engaging. A simple phrase to remember this is: speak, check in, continue (if you have a green light).

It’s an act of kindness to accommodate people’s limited attention span. Please don't pressure yourself to do this perfectly, but remember that such adjustments not only benefit others, they also reward you with a deeper, more meaningful interaction.

Appreciation to Bret Lyon, PhD., for assistance with this article. © John Amodeo

References

Amodeo, John. (1994). The Authentic Heart. New York: Wiley.

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4 Tips for Talking So People Will Listen

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19.05.2024

In a previous article, I explored the importance of listening to create connection. The other side of the equation is often neglected: how to speak in a manner that reduces others’ defensiveness and invites them toward us.

Here are four tips for speaking in ways that increase your chances of getting heard:

Nearly 7 percent of adults worldwide have ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder). It is more common in men. But even without this diagnosis, it's difficult for many of us to sustain attention when others are speaking.

Many have speculated that the human attention span has shrunk since the dawning of the internet. If you find that someone doesn't listen well, perhaps they have an attentional challenge. Or maybe they’ve had hard day, or it’s just late and they’re tired (yes, timing can make a difference).

But here's the thing: It is empowering to realize there are adjustments you might make in order to get heard:

Oftentimes in my couples therapy sessions, I hear accusations like: “My feelings just aren’t important to you! If you were less self-centered (or tired, grumpy, etc.), you’d listen better.” Such shaming and critical jabs are more likely to shut people down than perk up their listening.

Granted, many of us........

© Psychology Today


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