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Why Won’t Anyone Listen To Me? It’s Not Them, It’s You

Written by: Jack Carmody, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


Does it ever seem like people don’t listen to you? Like your words aren’t getting through? Whether on a personal or professional level, we all want to be heard and it can be frustrating when we feel like no one is listening. Now the hard part. If you want to see improvement in this area, your assumption must be that the problem lies with you. If you can have the humility to hold the mirror up and do some self-examination, you will be amazed at what can happen! Here are five reasons why people might be tempted to tune you out, and what you can do about it!

1 Too Much Talking, Not Enough Listening

Ironically, the best path to being heard is to listen. Stephen Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, observed that persuasion starts with understanding. People are more likely to listen to you if they feel understood. Take the time to listen and ask questions. If the person you are connecting with feels like you understand them and their world, they are much more likely to listen to you. And if you do a good job listening, your words will be more informed, which makes it even more likely that you will be heard! Be quick to listen, slow to speak (James 1:19).

2 Talking When the Other Person is Upset

Each one of us has a rational brain and an emotional brain. When we get upset, our emotional brain can overpower our rational brain. Most of us know this to be true, but fail to take it into account when communicating. Have you ever tried to have an intelligent conversation with a child who is having a temper tantrum? Good luck! Adults are no different. If you are trying to talk rationally with someone who is upset, they are not going to hear you. The apostle Paul has clear instructions here: “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). When someone is upset, the best you can do is to engage them on an emotional level. Once they have calmed down, they will be much more willing and able to listen to you!

3 Talking When You Are Upset

Talking when you are upset has several pitfalls. First, emotions are contagious, so there is a good chance your emotions will inadvertently spill over to others. Second, when you are upset, you are not thinking, and therefore not communicating, clearly. Becoming extremely upset can even kick in the body’s fight/flight response. This type of arousal can have the effect of functionally lowering your IQ. The key is to have some self-awareness and be able to recognize when you are upset. If you can take a minute and cool off, you will find that people will be more likely to listen to you.

4 Speaking to Someone Only When There is a Problem

If the only time you talk to a particular person is when there is a problem, they are less likely to listen to you. Consider a parent who goes weeks without talking to their child about his/her grades. The grades take a dip, and the parent comes down hard. The parent has just created a negative interaction with their child, without having any positive interactions to balance it out. This type of interaction can easily communicate, albeit unintentionally, that the parent cares about the grades, but not their child. The path forward is to build relational capital. Engage people on a personal level. Take an interest. Ask questions. These actions make relational “deposits.” If you can build this sort of relational capital, people are much more likely to listen to you, especially if there is a problem.

5 Using a Hard, Versus a Soft, Startup

Marriage researcher John Gottman observed that the success or failure of a conversation is typically decided in the first three minutes. In other words, how you “start” a conversation makes all the difference. He divided “startups” into two categories: hard and soft. A hard startup can be characterized by a raised voice, stern look, blaming/judging language, and being impolite. A conversation started this way will often either shut the other person down, or put them on the defensive. Either way, they won’t be listening to you! A better approach is to use a soft startup, which puts the focus on your feelings, and what you need. Be polite, express care and concern for the other person, and they are much more likely to listen to you.


So what if you think you are doing everything right, and you are still not getting the response that you want? Even then, it’s still probably you! I am partly kidding. It is certainly possible the other person needs to take some ownership of the situation. However, it’s always best to start with you, since that’s the only thing you can actually control. Negative communication patterns are hard to change, but if one person makes a positive change, the other person will often meet them.

Follow Jack on his Facebook, Linkedin and visit his website for more info.


Jack Carmody, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Jack Carmody is a licensed counselor in the state of South Carolina (US), a military chaplain, and an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church in America. Whichever of these "hats" he is wearing, his passion is to help people discover God's best for their lives. He is also the Veteran Coach for the TV show, "Military Makeover with Montel" which airs on Lifetime. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, running, and spending time with his family.



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