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Ugly Truth: Nobody Really Listens to You (But Still There Are Ways to Make What You Say Heard)

Ugly Truth: Nobody Really Listens to You (But Still There Are Ways to Make What You Say Heard)

Has it ever happened to you? You gave a super interesting presentation which you were sure would blow the audience away and whilst giving the talk, you realize that the audience is super bored, disinterested and not even listening to what you had to say in the first place?

Don’t take this personally or being reflective of your talking and communication skills – truth is most if not all people are not good at listening. The average attention span of a human being has always even been transient at best, and now with the advent of smartphones and technology – we now have attention spans shorter than that of a goldfish![1].

We all may be physically present at one plane, and appear to be attentive but mostly, our minds wander all over the place… And this situation is not just limited to you giving a talk to an audience, but sometimes even in interpersonal communication where you may be baring your heart and should, but the other person is inadvertently not paying attention…

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Doesn’t the Onus of Listening Lie With the Listener?

In a fair world, sure, but then the world isn’t all that a fair place, is it? What we need to do, is to stop resenting the fact that we may be saying or talking about the most interesting thing in the world but the other person may have stopped listening to it a while back. Instead, what we do need to do is to read the subtle signs of a person not listening so as to bring our audience’s attention back to us.

The effectiveness of a speaker ultimately lies with how much of it the audience has heard, listened and understood from and not just being a good talker. As a speaker, you have to ensure that the audience’s attention is on you, much like a spotlight.

What Are the Signs of Ineffective Listening?

As a speaker, you need to be aware of when the audience’s attention span starts to wander – and need to change the way you are talking so that everyone sits up and pays attention. It may not be fair to you as a speaker, but then the idea is that you need to make people listen using whatever means necessary – simply because there’s not much difference between your audience and a bunch of goldfish when it comes to paying attention! So read these signs of ineffective listening, and know when an intervention is needed.

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Whether your audience is a whole auditorium full of people, or just someone you are having a one on one contact with – these are the common, non-verbal sign that your audience is no longer really listening to you.[2]

  • Lack of eye contact: Most people actually listening to you talk, are likely to maintain a certain level of eye contact with you. If your audience is shying away from eye contact, they are likely distracted and not listening to you.
  • Too little or too much of nodding: When people are truly listening to you and understanding what you have to say – they tend to nod every now and then. If your audience is sitting with no nodding, or god forbid too much nodding – they are not listening!
  • No questions or response from the audience: At the end of a talk, as a speaker, you are likely to ask your audience if they have any doubts or need any further clarifications from you. Signs of good listening usually include at least a couple of questions of clarifications – but if you receive no response. It is possible that no one was actually listening to you.
  • No facial expressions: A wooden audience means that they weren’t listening to your jokes, your let’s get serious lines or even those argument-inspiring diktats.
  • Your audience interrupts you too much: Finally, if your audience keeps interrupting you – for clarifications, for arguing a point, for any random point – it is likely that they are on a different train of thought entirely.

How To Bring the Listening Spotlight Back on You

While it’s disheartening for the person who is talking to see that his audience, be it one or many, is not really listening to him – the best way to tackle this is to not take it personally, and simply get the spotlight of your audience’s attention back to you. Here are a few tips…

Make an Intentional Pause

If your audience is distracted, your voice and talk may have just turned into background noise for them. To snap them out of their inertia, pause for a moment. The idea is not to embarrass anyone and bring the spotlight on them – but when you stop speaking for a few moments, your audience is likely to snap out of their wandering thoughts and look at you in momentary surprise. This is the time to strike into new territory or even summarize your earlier topic into a couple of short, succinct sentences.[3]

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Ask a Question, Skillfully

One way to get the audience’s interest is to ask a question – albeit skillfully. Do not embarrass your audience – instead, summarize your points and then ask for opinions from people. Don’t get bothered if people are using their cell phones for that’s only normal. Instead, summarize and then ask questions. Make the audience part of your speech and you will see the cell phones slowly slip into pockets. When you ask a question, human competitiveness comes to the fore – and even the backseat laggards want to participate all of a sudden.[4]

Make a Sudden Verbal or Non Verbal Change

If you have been elaborating on the same point for a while, some of your audience may have become distracted. To bring their attention back – make a quick verbal change. Laugh suddenly or raise the pitch of your voice a few notches. This sudden change will bring drifting minds back from hearing to listening. Crack a sudden joke, do an impromptu dance, clap your hands – a sudden sound or visual stimuli is likely to bring everyone’s attention back to you. Change always grabs attention.[5]

Turn It Around

Mostly, the audience is used to the speaker having them turn off their cell phones and basically behave likes student in pre-K, even if they all might be CEOs of multimillion dollar companies. So, as a speaker, turn things around. A few really successful speakers have been known to use reverse psychology – they tell the audience not to put away the cell phones, remarking that this was not a church or a hospital. This establishes rapport between the audience and the speaker and this makes listening to a fun process.[6]

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Insert a Couple of Breaks

If your talk is going to be a tad long, make sure you insert a couple of breaks. Encourage your audience to go have a bathroom or water break, stretch their legs a tad or even catch up on Facebook or Twitter. Breaks, well, break the monotony of listening and freshen up your audience for all that you have to say further…

Remember that holding the attention of an audience; be it one or many is usually an uphill talk. Don’t get discouraged with wandering thoughts and learn the tips and tricks of bringing the focus back on to you. Laugh a lot, and make the audience smile too – and effective listening will soon follow.

Reference

More by this author

Rima Pundir

Health, Wellness & Productivity Writer

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Last Updated on May 7, 2021

Productivity Boost: How to start your day at 5:00 AM

Productivity Boost: How to start your day at 5:00 AM

I have been an early-riser for over a year now. Monday through Friday I wake up at 5:00 AM without hitting the snooze button even once. I never take naps and rarely feel tired throughout the day. The following is my advice on how to start your day (everyday) at 5:00 AM.The idea of waking up early and starting the day at or before the sunrise is the desire of many people. Many highly successful people attribute their success, at least in part, to rising early. Early-risers have more productive mornings, get more done, and report less stress on average than “late-risers.” However, for the unaccustomed, the task of waking up at 5:00 AM can seem extremely daunting. This article will present five tips about how to physically wake up at 5:00 AM and how to get yourself mentally ready to have a productive day.

Many people simply “can’t” get up early because they are stuck in a routine. Whether this is getting to bed unnecessarily late, snoozing repetitively, or waiting until the absolute last possible moment before getting out of bed, “sleeping in” can easily consume your entire morning. The following tips will let you break the “sleeping in” routine.

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Relocate your alarm clock.

Having an alarm clock too close to your bed is the number one reason people simply cannot get up in the morning. If your alarm clock is within arms reach of your bed, or if you can turn your alarm clock off without getting out of bed, you are creating an unnecessarily difficult situation for yourself. Before I became an early-riser, there were many times that I would turn off my alarm without even waking up enough to remember turning it off. I recommend moving your alarm clock far enough away from your bed that you have to get completely out of bed to turn it off. I keep my alarm clock in the bathroom. This may not be possible for all living arrangements, however, I use my cellphone as an alarm clock and putting it in the bathroom makes perfect sense. In order to turn off my alarm I have to get completely out of bed, and since going to the restroom and taking a shower are the first two things I do everyday, keeping the alarm clock in the bathroom streamlines the start of my morning.

Scrap the snooze.

The snooze feature on all modern alarm clocks serves absolutely no constructive purpose. Don’t even try the “it helps me slowly wake up” lie. I recommend buying an alarm that does not have a snooze button. If you can’t find an alarm without a snooze button, never read the instructions so you will never know how long your snooze button lasts. Not knowing whether it waits 10 minutes or 60 minutes should be enough of a deterrent to get you to stop using it.

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Change up your buzzer

If you use the same buzzer day in and day out, you begin to develop a tolerance to the sound. The alarm clock will slowly become less effective at waking you up over time. Most newer alarm clocks will let you set a different buzzer tone for the different days of the week. If you change your buzzer frequently, you will have an easier time waking up.

Make a puzzle

If you absolutely cannot wake up without repetitive snoozing, try making a puzzle for yourself. It doesn’t take rocket science to understand that the longer your alarm is going off, the more awake you will become. Try making your alarm very difficult to turn off by putting it under the sink, putting it under the bed, or better yet, by forcing yourself to complete a puzzle to turn it off. Try putting your alarm into a combination-locked box and make yourself put in the combination in order to turn off the alarm — it’s annoying, but extremely effective!

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Get into a routine

Getting up at 5:00 AM is much easier if you are doing it Monday through Friday rather than sporadically during the week. I recommend setting an alarm once that repeats everyday. Also, going to bed at about the same time every night is an important factor to having a productive morning. Learn how much sleep you need to get in order to not feel exhausted the following day. Some people can get by on 4-6 hours while most need 7-8.

Have a reason

Make sure you have a specific reason to get up in the morning. Getting up at 5:00 AM just for the heck of it is a lot more difficult than if you are getting up early to plan your day, pay bills, go for a jog, get an early start on work, etc. I recommend finding something you want to do for yourself in the morning. It will be a lot easier to get up if you are guaranteed to do something fun for yourself — compare this to going on vacation. You probably have no problem waking up very early on vacation or during holidays. My goal every morning is to bring that excitement to the day by doing something fun for myself.

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As I previously mentioned, I have been using these tips for a very long time. Joining the world of early-risers has been a great decision. I feel less stressed, I get more done, and I feel happier than I did when I was a late-riser. If you follow these tips you can become an early-riser, too. Do you have any tips that I didn’t mention? What works best for you? Let us know in the comments.

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