You’re not listening to me!

One of the greatest frustrations that you can experience in the workplace is the feeling that you aren’t being listened to or understood.

Many of us will respond to this situation by getting louder and possibly even angry.

The interesting fact is that when we feel that we aren’t being listened to or understood, most likely whoever we are speaking with feels exactly the same way!

Think about a time when someone indicated to you that they felt you weren’t listening. Chances are that you felt exactly the same way.

“What do you mean I’m not listening! You haven’t listened to a single word that I have said!”

There are five steps that you can follow to help you in such circumstances.

1. Recognise what is happening
To be able to do anything about this situation, first you have to recognise what is happening. The first sign will often be your own frustration or emotional response to not being ‘heard’.

2. Stop and listen
The first step above is your signal to stop and listen. Nothing more, nothing less. Focus on trying to understand what they are saying. This is your challenge – to develop an understanding. You don’t have to agree with them, just understand them.When the person finishes speaking move on to the next step. Remember. Just listen.

3. Say “Thank you”
This step can be very hard, but it is very powerful. When emotions are running high it can be difficult to control what you say, especially if the person you are speaking with has just given you a verbal barrage. No matter what is said to you, start with, “Thank you.”

Feedback is like a gift, and just like some gifts that we receive are not about us (like the play station I gave my wife for her 30th birthday many years ago!) the important issue with gifts is that we know to say, “Thank you” when we receive them. This tip is very powerful when it comes to knowing what words we are going to use first when it is our turn to respond in a heated conversation.

4. Ask, “Is there anything more that you would like to tell me?”
This question highlights that you are focused on them and not yourself. It is an indicator that you are really trying to listen to them, which is exactly what you are trying to do. It is also very powerful when people just want to be heard.

5. In as short a number of words as possible, check your understanding with them
Once they have finished speaking in step 4 above, succinctly tell them what you understand their perspective to be. Do not include your perspective or try to defend your perspective. Your job is to let them know that you really do understand where they are coming from.

Upon telling them your understanding of their perspective, ask them to correct any misunderstandings that you may have presented.

These five steps are very powerful and address the core issue of being heard. Once people feel heard, the emotion element lowers and you can move into the more productive problem solving mode.

What is your experience of trying to put these five steps into action?

Gary Ryan enables individuals, teams and organisations to matter.
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