I’m pretty sure you’ll agree with me that it’s really frustrating to try to communicate with someone when you feel like they’re not listening to you. Unfortunately, feeling unheard is an experience we can all relate to.

If you’ve had that type of experience, what did that feel like? What did they do – or not do – that demonstrated to you that they weren’t listening? Some of the most likely things that come to mind are being distracted, lack of eye contact, interrupting, and inconsistent body language.

There are many challenges with trying to communicate effectively with people who aren’t listening. The best place to start is to brush up on your own listening skills.

To encourage others to hear you, start by improving your own listening skills and model the behavior you want to see. Here are five of the top ways to improve your listening skills:

1. Stop talking. 

One of the best ways to show you’re listening is to simply stop talking while others are speaking. Resist the urge to talk over the speaker. Quickly make it about them, not you.

2. Don’t interrupt.

It’s easy to jump in, interrupting someone to defend a position, or clarify a position. Instead, focus on the speaker and use affirming sounds and slight head nods.

3. Pay attention. 

Watch out for easy distractions and work hard to stay focused.

Fact: We speak an average of 120 words per minute, but listen four times faster. Your mind fills the gap by thinking of other things and wandering off.

4. Repeat what you heard. 

Tell the speaker what you heard – either by paraphrasing (repeat back what was said in your own word) or summarizing (re-state the main points).

5. Check for understanding.

Always follow by a quick check for understanding. Say, “Is that right?”, “Is that correct?”, or “Is that what you said?” Or, try “Tell me more” if you aren’t sure what they are trying to say.

After you listen carefully, respond genuinely. Use good non-verbal communication skills including an open body (hands at side), and comfortable eye contact (at the same level).

An increased effort in improving our listening skills will ultimately change the way we are heard as well.

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For individual communication and career coaching, schedule a free 30-minute consultation with me today. Each coaching program can be custom-tailored to your specific needs and goals including personal communication to career development to becoming a better team leader or mentor.

Betty Lochner is a human resources consultant, business coach, and expert in workplace communications. She is the author of two books on communication, and a newly published journal, Intentional Gratitude.