People need a reason to want to listen because it takes effort to pay attention. On the other hand, if you give people a reason to not want to listen, then they will completely shut you out. So, first you have to know what “not to do” so that at least you don’t get ignored, then you have to understand what “to do” so that people will be extra attentive.

Whether you just want those around you to listen to you, or you want to be able to speak powerfully to make change in the world, the following guidelines are the way. And remember, you don’t have to change who you are for others to enjoy listening to you, all you have to do is make it simple for them.

Behaviors To Stray Away From:

  • Whining. If you whine it shows others you’re difficult to work with which is not good if you want to make things happen.
  • Gossip. Everybody knows that if a person speaks ill of someone who’s not around, they will turn around and do the same to you.
  • Judging. It’s very hard to listen to somebody if you know you’re being judged.
  • Self-consciousness. If you don’t have confidence and believe in yourself, others won’t either.
  • Being self-centred. Listening to someone who only talks and cares about themselves is tiring.
  • Interrupting. If you cut people off mid-thought you will not only distract them but likely offend them too.
  • Redundancy. It’s boring.
  • Insignificance. Consider if what you are saying is unimportant. Refer to Gandhi, “Does it improve upon the silence?”
  • Irrelevance. It’s not productive.
  • Negativity. Everybody knows the quote, “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it at all.” Listening to a negative person can be demotivating and painful.
  • Complaining. It’s just another form of negativity.
  • Blaming. Someone who doesn’t take responsibility for their own actions is hard to take seriously.
  • Exaggeration and lying. If a person can’t trust you, they won’t want to listen to you.
  • Dogmatism. Bombarding someone with opinions as if they are facts.

woman not listening with fingers in her ears

Behaviors To Take On:

  • Speak with conviction. Be passionate about your ideas and thoughts. You have to care about what you are talking about if you want others to care too. People enjoy listening to someone with enthusiasm.
  • Give value to your words. Be strong and confident with your communication.
  • Loosen up and speak clearly. Every word you speak should be understood.
  • Believe in yourself. If you come across as someone who’s at ease, you’ll be more pleasant to listen to.
  • Enjoy yourself. When you’re happy, those around you will feel it and be happy too.
  • Stand tall. Your posture portrays your confidence.
  • Breathe. A strong voice depends on air.
  • H.A.I.L. 
    Hail means to greet or acclaim enthusiastically. It is also an acronym by Julian Treasure (a sound consultant) that represent four really powerful cornerstones, foundations, that we can stand on if we want our speech to be powerful and to make change in the world. If you stand on these four things your words will be received with the acronym’s true meaning:
    H = Honesty. Be true, straight, and clear in what you say.
    A = Authenticity. Be you.
    I = Integrity. Be a trustworthy person who does what they say.
    L = Love. Be caring and wish people well; because that way it’s very difficult to judge.

Man with megaphone trying to make people listen

The human voice is an incredible instrument, especially if you get the sound out well. According to  Treasure, it’s probably the most powerful sound in the world. Your voice has the potential to make a massive impact in social situations and in business. But, like they say, “it isn’t just what you say but how you say it.” So here are a few points to keep in mind:

  • Keep the feeling of your voice rich, smooth, and warm.
  • Speak melodically. Avoid being monotonous.
  • Maintain a steady pace. Speak with enthusiasm but don’t let the excitement speed up your speech. When you say things steadily you can emphasize your words at points of importance.
  • Know when to be silent to make an impact.
  • Your pitch can completely change the meaning of what you say.
  • Your volume can change the way people pay attention. Project but don’t shout and refrain from using a high volume for a prolonged period of time as it can come across as overbearing and inconsiderate.
  • Depth is associated with power and with authority so lower your tone. Judy Apps, an author of For Dummies says: “Lowering your tone may seem a minor adjustment, but makes a surprisingly big difference to how you come across. As a general rule, a falling tone at the end of a sentence is used for statements and commands, and sounds final – as if you mean business. A rising tone indicates incompleteness or uncertainty and is used in all types of questions. End low and you sound as if you’re confident of your own opinions.”

To finalize, I will conclude with some words spoken by Julian Treasure in a Ted talk:

“We speak not very well to people who simply aren’t listening in an environment that’s all about noise and bad acoustics. What would the world be like if we were speaking powerfully to people who were listening consciously in environments which were actually fit for purpose? Or to make that a bit larger, what would the world be like if we were creating sound consciously and consuming sound consciously and designing all our environments consciously for sound? That would be a world that does sound beautiful, and one where understanding would be the norm, and that is an idea worth spreading.”

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