Flashback to me living outside Dusseldorf and my 18-year-old sister (who is visiting) drops me off at an ATM. After completing my transaction, I’m waiting….and waiting…and waiting. Oh and btw, my 4-month-old son (in the photo) is in the back seat of the Golf she’s driving.
We were in a part of town, much like downtown Charleston, full of Einbahn Strassen…or one-way streets going the wrong way. My sister is freaking out because every street is one-way going the wrong way, she doesn’t know German and my son is crying.
I mean at her age she barely knows how to drive as she struggles to make it back to my ATM machine. To this day, “einbahn strasse” is permanently engraved in her memory. It’s the only German she knows.
Later she picked up a handy phrase in Spanish from hanging out with us. It’s “anda a la esquina castigado” which means “go to punishment corner.” I say that a lot when there are toddlers in the house. No doubt that if my sister ever tours Latin America, she will impress the natives with her linguistics.
There are those key words and phrases we remember, and then there is the tsunami of daily messages. It’s completely understandable why you didn’t catch this or that. It’s highly annoying when people don’t listen to what you’re saying. Especially if you’re not the kind of person who’s always “thinking out loud” aka introvertish.
Listening only to what you want to hear is called “selective hearing.” It’s everywhere. Hence Xanax.
Most of the time, people have to be exposed to a message at least 7 times before they begin to tune in.
Let’s look at 3 basic reasons people don’t get what you’re saying:
1. They’re not listening…to you.
Distractions, anyone? Take note. If you’re talking to someone who has a cellular device in his/her hand, they’re not really listening to you. A hand on the device is directed by a brain that’s elsewhere.
You can’t always tell the person you’re talking to, to put away their phone. You can, but doing so carries risk, for example of losing your job or a friend.
A good tool for getting your point across the first time is your prologue – the way you set up your message.
If you’ve ever trained a dog, you know you need to get their attention before you teach them something. Same goes for humans.
That’s why in Public Speaking 101 you learned the basic structure of discourse: say what you’re going to say, say it and summarize what you just said.
In your prologue, it’s best to say why your message is relevant and/or important to your audience. #sellit
2. They don’t believe you.
There’s this study put out by Duke’s Fuqua School of Business (it’s not just me saying this). The main finding is that in a corporate environment, employee acceptance of change highly correlates with the perceived definiteness of the change.
In other words, if they know you mean business, people get behind you. If you’re not sure, wishy-washy or wanting approval before making the decision, it’s time to go home.
Just like with your kids. If Mom says, “eat your spinach,” but the kid knows Mom will surrender in half an hour, there’s no buy-in. If the kid knows s/he’ll have to eat it for breakfast, the spinach gets eaten. #beenthere People are attracted to confidence.
Here’s the formula:
what you say = what you do = consistency = people believe you
Not everyone is going to like you or your decisions. #idiotsareeverywhere Back to the parenting comparison, my cave-era parents never showed the least bit of concern for whether we 4 kids liked them or their decisions. They subscribed to the “shape up or ship out” leadership school. While that certainly isn’t the only possible attitude, your being clear internally is what makes people listen to you in the first place.
3. They don’t want to hear your message. AKA “extremely selective hearing”.
You simply can’t listen to everyone and everything so you choose and you self-interest naturally guides that decision-making process.
You have choices when you know you have a message to share that you know won’t be liked.
– Forget about it because they don’t want to hear about it anyway.
– Present very real consequences for failure to adhere to this message. If your audience knows you’ll follow through, this is a no-brainer. False promises = zero cred.
– Tell then the wonderful things that will happen if they do adhere to this message, if they get it now. Again, the positive consequences have to be for realz. Sometimes it’s simply a situation where the primary upside is that, well, it could be a lot worse.
When it’s important to get a message across the first time, your best communication tool is the readback: ask the person to explain to you what you just said in her or her own words.
Bottom line, being intentional (not resentful) about setting up and repeating your message is your ticket to getting your point across.