Yesterday I called my mom and our conversation went something like,
“Hi mom! How are you doing?”
“Very good! You?”
“I am doing fine! Yesterday I went to visit my friend, and she was telling me about her husband’s habit of responding to her 5 minutes after she asks him a question.”
“Yes. She says, it is impossible to talk to him, when he comes home he turns on the TV or browses the internet.”
“Do you know when you are trying to have a conversation and the other person pretends to listen?”
“And then they try to cover it up by repeating the last few words you say back to you…”
“Aha… the last few words you say…”
“ or mumbling something in agreement, like ‘yeah’ or ‘sure’!
“when their mind is focused on something else, like reading emails or playing computer games.”
“…computer games… terrible…”
“Mom, are you listening to me?”
“… sure, I’m listening!”
“I can hear the sound of “Zuma” in the background!” (Yes, my mom plays “Zuma” and she is actually breaking records at it)
“…What? … Sorry… Ok, I turned it off. So how was your day?”
I do not think that this was the only non-conversation someone was having that evening.
In our age of distraction we are so accustomed to multitasking and dividing our attention between checking our email, chatting on facebook, and responding to our spouse that we do not think it might be strange or offensive to people, who are trying to talk to us.
So what should we do, when we need to get our message across and the other person is not listening to us? How do we get our listener’s attention back?
Here are some “communication tricks” to get people to listen to your every word:
1. Use their name.
It is one word that will definitely get through their ‘selective hearing filter’ and grab their attention. If you use their first and last name, many people get the subtle message, “here comes trouble!” and focus solely on your next phrase.
2. Ask for it.
Even if we suspect that the person we are talking to is not really concentrating on what is being said, we still feel reluctant to ask whether or not the person has heard a single word. But the truth is that by ignoring the person ignoring us, we are not making the problem go away. If you want someone to pay attention to you, ask for it. Try this -“May I have your attention, please?” It is that simple!
3. Stress the importance.
If something you are about to say is important, let people know about it up front.
4. Vary your tone of voice.
Have you ever talked to someone or listened to a speaker talking in monotone? After about two minutes the speech starts to sound like one veeeeryyy-loooong word that has a strong sedative effect on your mind, to the point where you struggle to keep from yawning? If you do not want to be known as someone who has the rare gift of putting people asleep, add color and vibrancy to your speech. Vary your tone of voice, speaking pace and make use of pauses to stress the importance of the message.
5. Give people a reason “why”.
People will listen to what you say if it is interesting, valuable, or useful to them. The trouble is that what might be interesting and exciting to you, may sound irrelevant and boring to another person.
Therefore, before sharing something and demanding the full attention from people, ask yourself – How is what I am about to say relevant to my listeners? If you believe it is something they will be interested in, say something like “I’ve got some information that should be valuable to you” or “I’m sure you are going to like this!” Doing this will immediately direct their attention back to the conversation.
6. Identify time frame.
I noticed that while most of the women I know like to chat about everything and anything, men often need to know exactly how long the conversation will last. A simple question like, “Can you give me two minutes of your undivided attention?” tells a person that what you are about to say will not take much of their time. When you get the attention you wanted, just make sure not to jabber away!
7. Name your sources.
Very often the source of the information determines whether or not a person cares to listen to it or just smile and nod politely without hearing a thing. If your source of information is perceived as credible, useful or intriguing, people will hang on every word you say as soon as you mention it.
8. Ask more questions.
Make sure that your conversation has not turned into a monologue. People like to express their point of view and talk about the stuff that is relevant to them. Give them the opportunity to do this by asking more questions and, of course, paying attention to the answers you receive.
Do you have any other tips to grab people’s attention during the conversation? What are they?