Do you have to ask three times for your waitress? Do you routinely get the wrong drink at Starbucks? When you tell your partner your deepest feelings do they tell you to pass the salt?
If you are talking and no one is listening it can wreak havoc on your self-esteem. The way we are received by others, either fairly or not, defines a big part of what we think about ourselves. And if you’re not being heard, pretty soon you might think what you say doesn’t have any value.
So, besides getting a bullhorn, what can you do to change how others are responding to you? Most of us talk our entire lives so if you’re done feeling like you’re on the mute button it’s time to get started on the rest of your life – being heard!
Okay, let’s start with something you can change – you! First, you might have to face that 50% of the conversation is you. How is your speaking style? Are you talking low or in a monotone voice? What is your energy? People don’t want to engage with someone who seems overly negative or upset. If you’re not sure – try asking for things with a smile and lifting your voice up. Sometimes slowing down the conversation can help. Let’s say you are ordering cold cuts at the grocery store and last week you got pastrami instead of prosciutto. Ask the butcher, how are you today? And wait for an answer. Then smile and ask for what you would like. You’ll find that a kind word or two really opens up someone’s ears.
Give your partner a new chance to listen to you. If the person who isn’t listening to you is your partner, it’s time to re-boot your communication channel. Think about when it went down. Did you have a disagreement that never got resolved? Are built up resentments keeping you both silent? Or is it just a bad habit you both have of tuning each other out? No matter the cause, you can do something about it now, and you have to. Before the breakup comes the communication break down. So, sit down, turn off the TV and put the cell phones in another room. Just like the butcher, start with asking your partner how they are doing. Smile and listen, touch their hand or arm. Get connected anyway you can. This is not the time to bring up every problem from the leaky toilet to the in-laws coming for the holidays. This is the time to open up the channel of communication. So get yourself heard by listening first. That’s where to start.
The 7 to 1 rule
In any relationship, friendship or romance, issues will come up that need to be addressed. So build a foundation to withstand some difficult heart-to-hearts is the 7 to 1 rule. Make sure that the overwhelming majority of your communication is positive, reinforcing and complimentary. Say, “I am so glad you called.” Say, “I love to hear your voice.” Say, “I love you.” When you have said seven loving complimentary things, then you are allowed one, “Hey, I was bummed out that you didn’t pick up the dry cleaning the other day.” You’d be surprised what the answer is after seven loving statements. You will be heard in a whole new way because what you are saying is buffered by love.
Lastly, if positive loving statements and reconnecting is failing – is the person you are trying to communicate with really worth it? All of us have fallen for the drama of the unavailable person. Perhaps you think you’ll be the one that changes them somehow into the kind of person you really should be with. But wouldn’t it be a lot easier to find someone who wanted to hear what you have to say? Most relationships need tune ups periodically to keep running smoothly but sometimes you just have to donate the car to charity. So, start with you and speak with love first. The right person will hear you and echo your love back to you.
Remember, whether it’s simply in line at the book store or with the person you think you want to spend the rest of your life with, you always deserve to be heard.
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