I remember doing a funeral for a family where the 88-year-old woman who died had been married to her husband for 64 years.
The surviving husband, to whom I spoke with in the home prior to the funeral, was very hard of hearing. As I was beginning to deliver my message during the funeral, the elderly widower would lean over to his son, sitting next to him, speaking very loudly asking him questions throughout my message like:
“What did he say?” a few minutes later, “Is he talking about your mom?” At every question, the audience would smile and giggle and I would try to speak a little louder.
Until about half-way through my message the audience burst out in unison with laughter when he turned to his son again and asked, “Is he about done?” At that point I relented, joined the laughter and decided to close in prayer.
Have you ever been in a relationship where you have decided that what you have to say is just not being heard?
Here are 5 things you could do if you perceive no one is listening to you:
1. Make sure that you are speaking congruently. As you are speaking, make sure that you are inserting a feeling word along with the details of your thoughts. The most important aspect of your statements is how you feel about what you are thinking. Head and heart are the most vital elements in your conversations. An example would be if you were sharing a story about a previous argument; somewhere in the story you would include this statement: “I almost always feel frustrated because it seems like when I share my version of the story your body language communicates to me that you are not listening.” Notice that I included an emotion (frustrated) about my thought (body language).
2. If you believe that the person to whom you are speaking ignores you, doesn’t understand, or changes the subject without considering what you just stated; then try this approach. Ask the person a question: “I’m not sure I stated very clearly what I was feeling about my perception of your body language, would you share with me what you think I’m feeling?” If they are accurate, then affirm them by saying, “Thank you, I really appreciate you taking the time to listen to me.” Use the same approach if you think they missed what you were feeling anxious about. When the person validates your emotions about your thoughts, make a point of thanking them. If they totally missed what you had said, gently remind them and ask them to share what they heard you say. Repeat the above measures until you can affirm their efforts by thanking them for listening. “I really appreciate the time and effort you took to understand my thoughts and feelings. Thank you!”
3. If you are experiencing conversation with a non-compliant person and you have evaluated that this relationship deserves confrontation, then use an “I” statement to phrase your complaint. “I am feeling a bit sad that when I share my thoughts and feelings, you seem to be pre-occupied. Can we talk about that?” Always use an “I” statement and follow up with an invitation to have conversation.
4. If the conversation is with a person you consider unable to change with the above measures, you might conclude that your discussions will not be completely safe with this person. In other words, they might always be one-sided conversations. I would always listen and validate as they speak, but not expect them to return the favor. Two things usually happen when you give up the need for them to listen to you.
1) As you use good listening techniques with them, they will eventually catch on. You will have demonstrated what you desire from them. Some people just need good examples to follow over time.
2) Your resolve to let go of the need for them to listen to you will give you peace and the ability to focus on other relationships that are mutually beneficial and safe.
5. Don’t give up on people. Believe in the power of good conversation. Decide to be a good role model of not only speaking congruently, but also truly hearing what people are saying. Everybody has a story worth listening to, even you!