How To Get People To Listen To You
By: Rick Warren
One of the most common problems in the workplace, or in the home, is poor communication. Even your best ideas, plans or suggestions are worthless if you can’t communicate them effectively. Every year companies lose billions in potential profits because they ignore outstanding ideas or suggestions from employees.
Communication is not automatic. Just because someone is hearing you say something doesn’t mean they are really listening. Fortunately, there are seven skills all of us can develop that can help to ensure that people will listen to us when we speak. Interestingly enough, these simple, yet profound – and amazingly contemporary – guidelines are presented in the pages of the Bible:
1. CHOOSE THE RIGHT TIME! Timing is the first key in effective communication. You may be ready to talk, but your audience ready, or even willing, to listen? Never drop a bomb – a startling, unexpected statement or announcement – that your hearers are not prepared to receive. “There is a right time and a right way to do everything” (Ecclesiastes 8:6).
2. PLAN YOUR PRESENTATION. Carefully think through what you intend to say first. When what you need to communicate is critical, take the effort especially to plan your introduction and supporting illustrations. Don’t begin what you are going to say with cumbersome details that could obscure your primary objectives. Take a hint from TV, where directors move from the long shot to the medium shot to the close-up. “Intelligent people think before they speak. What they say is then more persuasive” (Proverbs 16:23).
3. BEGIN WITH HIS OR HER (YOUR HEARER’S) NEEDS. A listener is always asking questions like, “Why should I listen to this?” and, “How will it benefit me?” If you can answer these two questions at the outset, you will have your audience’s undivided attention – they will understand why what you have to say is significant to them. “Speak only…according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29).
4. LISTEN FIRST! We usually get into trouble when we make assumptions, especially when trying to communicate important information. Before you concentrate on what you intend to say, be willing to listen to the other side first and gain their perspective. “Be quick to listen and slow to speak” (James 1:19).
5. SAY IT POSITIVELY. No one likes to hear bad news. Learn to be both realistic and optimistic at the same time. You are never persuasive when you are abrasive, or negative! If you have bad news, say it up front in a factual, non-personal way. Then quickly move into a more positive, constructive mode. “The mature person is known for his understanding. The more pleasant his words, the more persuasive he is” (Proverbs 16:21).
6. CLARIFY YOUR CONCLUSIONS. Summarize and recap what you’ve said to make certain that you have been properly understood. Be specific. Restate what you have decided on – and what you haven’t – to ensure agreement. “Agree with each other in the Lord” (Philippians 4:2).
7. END WITH AN ENCOURAGING WORD. Exit lines – your closing words – are important. Even if the discussion was heated and both sides took some heavy shots of criticism, try to end on a positive, affirming note. ”A word of encouragement does wonders!” (Proverbs 12:15).
Rick Warren is the author of the highly acclaimed, best-selling book, The Purpose-Drive Life, which has been translated into many languages and sold throughout the world. It affirms the importance of having a carefully considered, clearly expressed purpose to guide everyday life.