In this key note, we are looking at the final three keys to getting people to listen to you at work. If you missed part one, you can find the first three keys here. The purpose of this article is to help you employ strategies at work that will help you to be heard. Being heard is not limited to people listening to what you have to say. It includes having what you say be viewed as valuable, be considered in decision-making, and be acted upon. If you are not heard in your workplace, your impact is limited. Limited impact means limited opportunity. Once you’ve read this key note, implement these strategies into your daily communications, and take the action steps described at the end of this note.
4. Manage your emotions. There will be times when you feel very strongly about a topic. Those emotions can range from anger to excitement. While it is totally appropriate to have emotions, it is important to manage your emotions in your conversations and other communications. You can share how you are feeling without demonstrating those feelings. You can state that you are angry without raising your voice, cursing and throwing things just like you can share your excitement without jumping up and down and dancing. Learning to manage the display of your emotions is critical in maintaining a professional image. However, do not confuse managing the display of your emotions with not displaying emotions at all. People need to see the humanity in you. Communicating without any emotion will lead people to believe that you are cold, callus, and uncaring. So, the balance here is achieved by managing how you show emotion in your communication, whether through your words, tone, or body language. People, especially in a work environment, don’t respond well to an excessive or unexpected display of emotion. But at the same time, they want to feel your humanity. They want to know that you care and that you can empathize with them.
One of the most critical components of this key is maintaining your composure when another party in your communication is escalating their emotions. Their inability to manage their emotions, however, does not give you permission to match their emotion in your response. Doing so, will only make a bad situation worse. When you find yourself in this situation, try to deescalate it by suggesting you revisit it when you are both in a better state to communicate effectively and appropriately or move the conversation to a more private area. If neither of these tactics work, you may need to leave the conversation and follow up later. However, never let anyone bait you into losing control of your emotions in your communications in the workplace.
5. Speak. I know this may sound obvious, but I’m including it because it needs to be included. If you tend to talk too fast, to mumble, or speak in a soft voice, people may be avoiding having conversations with you. Each of these make communicating more cumbersome and if people find it difficult to talk to you –for whatever reason- they will avoid talking to you. If people are avoiding talking to you, your opportunities for being heard decrease.
Pay attention to whether these are things you do in your communication. Try recording a couple of conversations or meetings (with the permission of those involved of course) and listen to how you talk. If you talk fast, practice pacing your speech. If you talk softly, project your voice more when talking. If you mumble, be intentional about enunciating your words and projecting your voice. Also, use everyday language. You don’t want to miss out on being heard because no one could understand what you were saying or were interested in listening to you because of the language you chose to use. No one is impressed by big words and the use of a lot of unnecessary jargon. Speak plainly and simply so people who are listening can understand what you are talking about.
6. Don’t pretend to know something you don’t. Despite what you may believe, people do not expect you to know everything, so don’t pretend that you do. It is much better to refer someone to another person who is more knowledgeable than you on a specific topic or to simply state that you don’t know than it is to give misinformation. Giving misinformation can lead to your colleagues and supervisors thinking you know less than you actually do or to you developing a reputation as a liar or an incompetent employee. It can also have a negative impact on your organization. If someone acts on misinformation you gave, it could cost your organization in more ways than one. People will respect you more for admitting when you don’t have the answer or the solution to a problem than pretending you know it all. Be willing to find the answer, if it is within your realm of responsibility, or to assist in identifying the best place to start for that person to find the answer they are seeking.
Here are three steps to help you implement these keys into your communication practice:
If you commute to work on public transportation or eat lunch in a public place, strike up a conversation with someone you don’t know but see regularly. Learn the name of the person and what he or she does for a living. The next time you see that person, address them by name and ask them a specific question about their work based on what you learned about them in your previous conversation. If you don’t remember their name or what they do for a living, you weren’t listening well. Continue to practice this until you see improvement in your retention of details from various conversations.
Identify a colleague at work to get to know better. Ask about their interests, their career goals, and other general things about them. You’ll likely find that when you express interest in others, they will be more open with you. When they are comfortable being open with you they will naturally want to learn more about you and hear what you have to say.
Plan to be better prepared for your next scheduled meeting. Find out what the agenda items are and identify potential questions you might get or topics and issues that are likely to be discussed. Research data and options before going to the meeting. Share what you’ve learned with the group. Your preparation will be respected and appreciated by your colleagues and they will be more willing to listen to you.