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  • Writer's pictureKids Life Magazine

How to Speak So Others Will Listen

By Larry Deavers


All relationships go through certain periods where tension is higher and communicating clearly is more difficult. When we’re going through those times, we tend to try to get the other person to understand our point of view by repeating ourselves, talking loudly, or by defending our position, rather than listening to theirs.


It’s easy to take the approach that, “If someone else doesn’t like what we have to say, it’s their problem and they’re just gonna have to deal with it.” However, if this is a relationship that is important to you, whether it’s a spouse, child, a boss, or a coworker, it is definitely worth taking the extra time and effort to put yourself in their place and try to approach the subject in a way that will make it as easy as possible for them to hear what you have to say.


Here are some suggestions for speaking in a way to make it easier for other people to listen:


Be clear and concise. When we feel passionately ab out the point we have to make, it’s tempting to state our position repeatedly, while emphatically increasing the volume or tone of voice in an attempt to convey our conviction that we are right.  But, it’s usually easier for someone to receive your message when it is said one time in a clear, calm voice at a time when you have their undivided attention.  Repeating your message several times, especially when you are competing with other noise or demands for the listener’s attention, only leaves you feeling exasperated and your message without the impact you had hoped. To make it easier for them to hear, is important that you think of what your message is, boil it down to one or two bullet points, and choose a time when the other person can actually give you their attention without distraction.


Be an active listener. Once you’ve made your point, be prepared to have a discussion that is genuine and cooperative in nature. Be patient and take the time to listen to the message the other person may have in response. Take time to reflect on any concerns or objections they may have and practice genuine curiosity to understand without defensiveness. 


Often, when we someone is speaking to us, we are not truly listening with an ear to understand so much as we are allowing the other person to talk while we prepare our next defense or attack. This approach typically backfires and conversations can evolve into arguments or hurt feelings, rather than accomplishing the goal that you had in mind.


Be confident in what you are saying. Being confident does not have to mean being demanding or disrespectful; it just means that you have a well thought out position that genuinely and truly reflects your priorities, values and needs. If you are not fully convinced you have the right message, it’s hard to convince others. 


Sometimes, we go “half-cocked“ and try to articulate a message that we haven’t thoroughly thought through and may not be quite convinced of ourselves. It is much easier for the other person to listen to something that you have explored within yourself and come to a position that is important to you and reflects what you need from them. This makes it much easier for them to appreciate your request to accommodate what you were asking or to offer a compromise. 


Stay focused. When we are having a difficult conversation or making an emphatic plea to someone else, it is tempting to throw in everything from the past to prove a point or to lay blame in order to make your message more valid. However, it’s easier for the other person to listen to your concern if you stay in the present and resist the temptation to bring up multiple past experiences where you think they have been the cause of difficulties in your relationship.  Genuinely approach your concern as something that both of you can address, not just something the other person needs to fix.


Remember to ask questions. Your questions should stem from a genuine desire to understand the position of the other person, with a heart toward seeking to make their life easier, as well as your own. Ask questions without interrupting and avoid merely listening for information that you can use to justify your own position. Be mindful of coming across as condescending in your questions and, seek to genuinely and compassionately hear the other person’s point of view.


Be mindful of barriers that may impede your communication. When we fail to be empathetic and genuinely curious and compassionate toward the other person, the attention, frustration, and sense of urgency that we may feel almost inevitably comes across in our tone of voice, choice of words, facial expression, and body language. Without genuineness and empathy, the listener will respond to what they are seeing and hearing in your nonverbal communication and tone of voice more than the actual words of your message. If you want to engage the other person in a cooperative manner, it is essential that you sincerely take a caring approach, yourself, so that they respond in kind.


Having difficult conversations is a typical part of any ongoing relationship. It can be stressful and risky when done without proper preparation or thought. However, with some planning on your part, genuine caring for the person that you are talking to, and a concise, clear message about your own needs, you can engage the other person in a way that makes it easier for them to hear your concerns without feeling attacked and respond in a way to help you achieve your goal.




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