How to Get People to Listen to You

Need help getting people to listen to you?

I am a shy person, and social situations can overwhelm me at times. But I have a loud family, and though I feel like I have things to say, I just can't get them to listen!

Now that I have four kids of my own, I still struggle with getting people to listen to me. In fact, I've faced the same situation at the office, in volunteer organizations, and even at fun, social gatherings at my own house.

Over the years, I've developed some techniques to help get people to listen. Not all of these tips work in every situation. You have to use a little bit of intuition to determine a receptive audience, and then decide what will work best. If, after trying these techniques, you still can't get them to listen, no matter what - its time to find a new group to hang out with!

Ready to learn how to get people to listen? Read on!

Get people to listen by improving your communication
Get people to listen by improving your communication

5 Easy Tips to Get People to Listen

No matter your situation, you can get people to listen using several tried and true tactics. I've used these at home with my kids, in family settings (always interesting and often a bit heated) and in the work place.

Before you try these tactics, consider the number of people in the room, the personalities of those present, and then take a deep breath before jumping into the conversation.

Here are 5 tips to help get people to listen to you, in just about any situation:

  1. Speak softly.
  2. Use short sentences.
  3. Be concise.
  4. Keep it simple.
  5. Stay on topic.

Conversation Tips

Get People to Listen in the Work Place

Let's face it - being heard at work is often difficult. Among many factors, perhaps the most influential is the fact that your co-workers are competing with you. In fact, even your superiors may not have your best interests in mind because.... if you advance... they do not.

If you are in a group meeting at work, consider these tactics and tips to get people to listen to you:

  • Sit in the front of the room; people in the back are easily ignored
  • Prepare your comments in advance, based on the scheduled topic
  • Keep your statements brief, concise and to the point
  • Tie your comments to stated company goals or objectives, i.e. new products, energy saving measures, etc.
  • Talk for no more than 3 minutes and/or address no more than 3 points
  • Repeat yourself, if necessary
  • Follow up with a written memorandum to underscore your comments

It can be difficult in social situations to get people to listen
It can be difficult in social situations to get people to listen

Get Your Family and Friends to Listen

With people closer to you than co-workers, you have to consider personal history as an impediment to communication. When ever you have an issue with a friend or family member, the underlying cause is rarely the discussion at hand, but more often underlying hurts or issues from the past.  That means getting family and friends to listen can be even more difficult. Each side will bring old wounds and scars to the table.

You can still get family and friends to listen. It just takes a bit more time and patience:

  • Stay in the moment - don't bring up hurts from the past
  • Give everyone their turn, but then ask to expect the same from them
  • Talk in a low voice, but keep eye contact - this will force people to listen when its your turn to talk
  • Segue slightly from the topic at hand (unless you are 100% interested) but tie in your contribution to the conversation
  • Give it at least 10 minutes for family and/or friends to acknowledge your viewpoints - if not, then excuse yourself and see if there are others to converse with at the gathering

For me, one of the biggest issues I've faced in gatherings with family is acceptance. Through many years of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), I've learned that its not that they don't understand me, its that they do not accept me.

But this is not a bad thing. In fact, its great to know. You can still be yourself without feeling like you need to change to fit in. In short, its them and not you.

Trust me, and read on.

Is this how your kids listen to you?
Is this how your kids listen to you?

Get Your Kids to Listen

Getting your kids to listen to you is both the easiest and most difficult of the tasks in this hub. Its easier because - let's face it, you are an adult and the authority figure. Its more difficult because they only have their own self-interests at hand!

I've found that the following tactics work especially well when working with my 4 kids (ages 7-13):

  • Don't raise your voice - lower it. By speaking softly, your children have to be quiet to hear what you say
  • Incorporate a clear reward system for listening. It may not work to punish your kids for ignoring you, but if you have more than 1 child in your family you can instill competition among them for the best listening
  • Keep lecturing short and sweet. Its like that Gary Larson cartoon of the dog only hearing key words and phrases. Don't go on and on. Make your point and then stop talking and shift focus
  • Simple, short directives are the most effective. Teenagers in particular lose their attention span in nano-seconds. Keep your statements brief and to the point, and you are more likely they will hear you!

I sometimes try negative motivation with my kids - threatening to take away toys or privileges for not listening. But, like most human nature, they respond best to positive encouragement rather than threats. Yes, the carrot works better than the stick!

Do you have any tricks to help get people to listen? Be sure to share in the comment section below!

How Do You Get People to Listen To You?

  • I don't worry about whether people are listening, I just talk!
  • I'm not sure people will listen to me, no matter my tactics
  • When people don't listen, I shut down
  • I find myself getting louder and louder when I feel that I'm being ignored
  • People don't listen to me?
See results without voting

© 2010 Stephanie Hicks

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Comments 36 comments

prairieprincess profile image

prairieprincess 5 years ago from Canada

This is awesome advice! I have this problem because I naturally have a soft voice. I liked what you said about how people often have a motive for NOT listening. So true, and a good reminder to not take it personally. Thanks, and great hub!


Helpful Hanna 5 years ago

This is really helpful advice. I can use these strategies as I'm sure many other people can. Thank you.


Madama profile image

Madama 5 years ago from Harrisburg PA

Great hub and good advice on how to get people to listen.


shape_shifter profile image

shape_shifter 5 years ago from The Free Waters of Planet Earth

Awesome advice! The key point with children, especially, to get in and out quickly... My biggest mistake has always been vascillating a subject to pieces, ESPECIALLY if I feel I'm starting to be "tuned out." Also, you said, "... the underlying cause is rarely the discussion at hand, but more often underlying hurts or issues from the past." Great point! This is SO true! Especially in spousal relationships, we would all do well to remember this, and avoid it like the plague on our end!! I have suffered immensely from this problem, in spite of the fact that I am a rather outspoken individual who tends to gather attention rather easily... I think I need to consider your other point as well, about rejection or competition, rather than disagreement, being the cause! The one thing I'd like to add that has sometimes made a big difference for me, is to first be a good listener... Just as people tend to like those who like them, people try to listen to those who listen to them... Becoming a better listener has helped me a lot! Great hub!


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 5 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Thank you Prairie Princess, Helpful Hanna, Madama and Shape Shifter! I decided to write this hub in the midst of Winter Break - lots of time with family and my kids. Time to put the listening/conversation tactics to the task!

Definitely becoming a good listener will help encourage (some) people to listen to you. Staying on topic is one of the biggest, most important points. Leave the past in the past and focus on the task at hand.

Happy conversations in 2011! ;-) Steph


ghomefitness profile image

ghomefitness 5 years ago from Chicago,IL

I find with my teenage daughter's there is no talking to them when they are in drama mode. I have to circle back and have the conversation later or nothing gets accomplished. Sometimes I feel like a Judge sorting through the she said, she said thing. Thanks for the tips.


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 5 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Hi ghomefitness, my teen son is difficult to communicate with too, but at least I don't get the drama! ;-) Talking to teens and getting them to listen could be an entirely separate hub. Probably the best bet is to try to stay on topic and minimize distractions of past issues and incidences. Easier said than done though, right?


Mentalist acer profile image

Mentalist acer 5 years ago from A Voice in your Mind!

Great advise stephhicks,I also try to get my point across by presenting a topic in question form;)


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 5 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Hey Mentalist acer - that is a great tip! Engage your listener by asking them to answer a question. Cheers, Steph


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 5 years ago from England

Hi, what fantastic ideas! I tend to have this problem too, especially with my friend who always talks over me! but I also have tried the 'talk quietly' thing, it does work! if everybody are yelling or trying to get over each other, they will automatically stop if you are whispering or talking quietly! rated up, as I am going to try the rest! lol cheers nell


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 5 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Hi Nell,

My family members tend to talk over me too! Talking quietly usually works with them. Another tactic I've used is to abruptly stop when they start talking over me - let them finish - and then say, "now, may I continue?" LOL! Good luck with your communication with your friend - let me know how it goes!


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 5 years ago from England

Hi, I will, unless I pass out with shock because they have listened! ha ha


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 5 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

LOL - that's funny Nell!


Erin LeFey profile image

Erin LeFey 5 years ago from Maryland

Great article, I have a soft voice too and tend to shut down in my large family because I don't want to get into the middle of their excited talking of one trying to out yell the other. I was playing with the idea of CBT a while ago but didn't know how it really differed from regular counseling ... I may look into it more after reading your article. Thanks!


TopUniverse 5 years ago

Getting people to listen to our point have to be an art. It need some talent on the speaker point of view. I love your 5 easy steps to listen people.


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 5 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Hi Erin, I go to CBT every week. I am so much a better person for it. I've learned how to not take things personally and establish and maintain healthy boundaries. Try it out! :)


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 5 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Thanks Top Universe, listening is an art form, and not all people have gotten it down. Fortunately, you can help encourage people to listen when it seems nearly impossible. Best, Steph


American_Choices profile image

American_Choices 5 years ago from USA

stephhicks68,

I have in my career coached my staff so many times on this subject - this is a must read for all offices. Very well done.


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 5 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Thank you American_Choices, I hope your staff finds this helpful. Its good to continue to work on listening and communication skills, especially in the workplace. Best, Steph


Tony the writer profile image

Tony the writer 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

I have no problem getting people to listen to me but I now have some new tools thanks to your hub, cheers.


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 5 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Tony - that is awesome! You never know when you'll run up against a tough audience. :)


KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

KoffeeKlatch Gals 5 years ago from Sunny Florida

Very simple, very effective tips on how to get someone to listen to you. I have found that the minute you raise your voice people tend to stop listening. Great advice and tips. Voted up and useful.


jzepess profile image

jzepess 5 years ago from Bend, OR

Steph,

Nice article on a very important topic. Too many people focus on talking and not enough on listening.

A couple of points that are most important to me when listening:

-- Listening is active. Focus on the person talking and give your undivided attention. Do not begin thinking of what you want to say next. That is called waiting; not listening.

-- When discussing a particular topic, especially a serious one, listen to the other person first. Allow them to convey their message and you will find they will be more open to listening to you. It's called reciprocity, much like the way you automatically smile when someone smiles at you.


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 5 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Hi KoffeeKlatchgals - right! If you look too desperate to be heard, that will come across and people will likely ignore you. Cheers, Steph


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 5 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Thanks jzpess,

Great additional tips on how to be a good listener. Spot on regarding the difference between listening and waiting. Reciprocity is what makes a real conversation, instead of a one-sided talking match. Best to you, Steph


Daddy Paul profile image

Daddy Paul 5 years ago from Michigan

I like your 5 tips!


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 5 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Thanks Daddy Paul!


Rev. Akins profile image

Rev. Akins 5 years ago from Tucson, AZ

I appreciated what you have to say, my biggest challenge is in when I am talking and someone interrupts. They do not mean to be rude about it, you can tell they are excited and want to add to the conversation or add to something I just said, but it still makes it hard to get others to listen to me afterward. I think I am going to try some of your techniques though, they sound very helpful.


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 5 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Hi Rev. Akins - I find interruptions very frustrating, too. Sometimes the person doesn't mean to be rude, but at the same time, you know you are not being heard if they are simply waiting for you to get done talking! Best, Steph


Silva Hayes profile image

Silva Hayes 5 years ago from Spicewood, Texas

Love the five easy tips. Great hubpage.


Aniela profile image

Aniela 5 years ago from Southeastern, PA

I always say when you have something important to say, don't shout, speak softly - so I'm happy to see you have the same tactic listed repeatedly. The biggest problem I have right now is getting my boyfriend to stop interrupting me when I'm trying to complete my thought. He is working on correcting his interrupting ways, but it still makes me wonder if he's listening.


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 5 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Hi Aniela, thanks! One thing I might suggest for you and your boyfriend is to use an egg timer (one of those little sand glass objects from a board game). When you turn it over, its your turn to talk and he cannot interrupt until the sand runs out. Vice versa when its his turn. That will not necessarily prevent him from not listening (he's preparing his remarks mentally), but at least will give you the space to talk! Good luck - Stephanie


chris 4 years ago

dear writer,thanks for the help but i don't know if that will work on my friendsthat easly because they are stubern and braty exept my friends fabian,oscer,and patience.Everybody but them is rude and braty but thanks for the evise. from Chris:D


stessily 4 years ago

Steph, Very interesting with excellent tips. It's very true that "If, after trying these techniques, you still can't get them to listen, no matter what - it's time to find a new group to hang out with!":-)

From observation, studies, and personal experience, I also feel that not allowing someone to be heard often stems from not accepting that person; it is not that the person is not understood in their attempts to communicate, but rather that the person is not being accepted, for whatever reasons. You've stated this well: "For me, one of the biggest issues I've faced in gatherings with family is acceptance. Through many years of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), I've learned that its not that they don't understand me, its that they do not accept me."

Well done.


Laura Schneider profile image

Laura Schneider 4 years ago from Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, USA

Wow, excellent hub! I used to be a loud mouth, but in recent years I've been quieter and had better success in my career. Still working on my family, though. ;-) Your 5 tips are great! I can't wait to put them to work for me. I think that with my family's not listening problem it's not only that they don't accept me but that they don't fully accept and listen and take seriously what I am saying.

For anyone who isn't sure about CBT, I second Steph's recommendation of it. There's an inexpensive paperback called, "Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy" by David Burns. That book is a great introduction to CBT and I recommend it highly.


letstalkabouteduc profile image

letstalkabouteduc 12 months ago from Bend, OR

It always seems the quiet ones have the most interesting things to say. I find that especially true at office meetings. It's the extroverts who dominate, jumping in and speaking before they've even collected their thoughts. It's the introverts who consider what was said and then process what they want to add. Unfortunately, by the time introverts are ready to speak up, the boss has already moved on to the next agenda item. That's why it's so important bosses, teachers, and parents use "wait time," giving everyone minutes to think before talking. It evens the playing field so introverts can contribute, too! Great hub, Stephanie!

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