It can be exasperating when you’re trying to communicate with someone, but you know that what you are saying is “going in one ear and out the other.”
You might be offering advice, or giving instructions on how to complete a task, but the other person has made up his or her mind already, or he thinks his way is the best way and won’t entertain any other points of view. When that happens, you can either throw your hands up in the air and walk away, or be patient and make the effort to ensure he does eventually take your message on board.
There are occasions when you can almost forgive your listener’s deliberate obtuseness or “selective” hearing. I can’t imagine there’s a parent out there who hasn’t uttered the words “Are you sure you want to do that? Have you tried doing it this way… ?” as they watch their child ignore the blindingly obvious negative consequences of an ill-considered undertaking.
I remember being 16 and confidently dismissing my father’s opinion that there were less perilous ways of cleaning the chain of my motorbike than by holding an oiled rag around it with one hand while releasing the clutch with the other. There was a surprisingly small time lag between my hand getting dragged towards the teeth of the sprocket, and the realization that the old man had a point!
In the workplace, though, the reasons that people don’t, or won’t, listen cannot be explained away by the misplaced confidence of youth. Instead, it can be attributed to such things as arrogance, pride, defensiveness, or an unwillingness to admit to mistakes.
We asked you to let us know how you deal with people who don’t listen. And your replies revealed what an understanding, patient lot you are! Thank you to everyone who contributed their ideas. Here is a selection of your top tips:
Kantharaj Kanth, on Facebook, set the tone for many of your responses when he said, “You need to ask open questions, or ask their point of view, so he/she will be more attentive to stay tune in the present.”
Taking responsibility for the situation and trying to understand the other person’s lack of engagement was a popular standpoint among our Twitter followers. @yorkshireot suggested, “Seek first to understand, then be understood.” It was a view echoed by @richardwnewton, who wrote, “1.Get to know the person & understand why 2. Explain in different way 3. Understand/explain from their perspective.”
@somajurgensen advised, “Listen to them first. #covey [author @StephenRCovey] says ‘Seek first to understand.’ #leadership.” @Lucid8LgSkills said, “Reconsider your own communication. Actively listen to them (for a change?).”
In a similar vein, we heard from:
- @HugoHeij: “Stop telling them things, and start asking questions. Listen to them.”
- @Tirunelvelikara: “Understand emotional needs & make him/her listen with appropriate explanations. Though it looks easy, it’s practically tough.”
- @ElizabethLStein: “Value where he or she is at. Connect & never force – – it unfolds through creating meaningful relationships – – trust.”
Several of you suggested trying a different channel of communication, as people have different preferred ways of learning or understanding. @igarcerant said, “Two tips: communicate in writing form, and [involve others] to bring a bit of objectivity.” @AshfieldDisplay recommended, “Use a visual way to get your message across.” @Rufusmay‘s tips were. “a) do something unexpected b) write to them c) ask for a meeting with friends present or d) listen deeply & don’t interrupt them.” @PennyGundry said, “Allow for silence, hold the ‘space’, be an actor, not reactor.”
I hope you find one another’s tips informative and enlightening. Hopefully there are enough ideas to inspire @ChloeWooles, who said, “I can’t wait to see the suggestions on this topic! It’s something I deal with a lot.”
I think the last word goes to @Chitailova, although I’m not sure how seriously to take her suggestion that, “You get drunk with them! Good wine is usually a deal-maker!”