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Fed up of not being listened to by coworkers?

Estimated reading time: 6 mins

It’s not nice to be ignored or sidelined, is it? So what can be done?

If you’re the guy nobody listens to, you’re probably feeling quite miserable and frustrated about it. It could be as bad as really dreading going into work, and you might have even pulled a sickday, or two, to avoid it. Something has to change, right?

As painful as it maybe, the thing that has to change first is probably yourself. But the good news is is that it is far easier to change yourself than it is to change others. You are in control of you.

Before you make can change, you’ve got to know what to change, and why. And that will involve some self-analysis and inward reflection. Is it possible that one of more of the things below apply to you?

Are you background noise? Do you do most of the talking in your workplace? Are you a frequent chatterer? It’s possible that your coworkers don’t appear to pay you much attention when you’re talking because you’re always talking, and this becomes background noise to them. The noise emanating from your mouth is so familiar, your coworkers ears are de-tuned to your voice. Talking louder won’t have an impact; their ears will just tighten closer.

Are you boring? It’s possible that what you have to say is a boring subject! I have a coworker who is mad on rodents: keeping rodents; breeding rodents; feeding rodents; showing rodents; birthing rodents; burying rodents; talking about f**king rodents all the f**king time… I care not about rodents, so when this coworker talks, I stop listening because what they talk about is simply boring to me. Although your interests are of utmost curiosity and stimulation to yourself, it is possible that, to others, it’s dull as dishwater.

Do you talk only about yourself? I know a couple of people who talk only about themselves. I can’t stand either of them. At every opportunity, a conversation is selfishly redirected onto themselves – it’s utterly tedious and gets very annoying. Is it possible that you do this (perhaps not to the same extent)?

Are you a smartass? Nobody likes a smartass. Is it possible that you annoy people by always being right? I have been accused of this myself, and it wasn’t an unfounded comment (I admit). Being right all the time can be very annoying to other people. It can make others feel stupid, or inferior, or dumb; and this isn’t a nice feeling. So what happens? Your colleagues avoid verbal exchanges with you.

Are you predictable? Is your answer always the same? If so, then people will stop listening to you because they already know what you’re going to say!

Are you listening yourself? To be listened to, you need to also listen. Do you actively engage in conversations and really listen to others? Or do you consider a pause in the conversation as an opportunity to start talking? A conversation is a two-way exchange, or should be if you’re really paying attention and showing interest in your coworker. If your coworkers have decided that talking to you is like talking to a brick wall, then they will stop showing any interest in what you have to say, in turn.

Try a different tack…

Whatever the reason for you being ignored by coworkers is, carrying on isn’t going to solve the problem. It’s time for a change of approach with your colleagues. Do something different. So try these:

  • Be clear on relevance: if you’re sharing information, or assigning work, make it obvious why this is relevant to your coworkers (not relevant to you). What you say becomes interesting once coworkers understand why it is relevant to them. Example: I know you’ll be looking at the sales figures tomorrow morning Jill, so you should probably know that the accounting system has been upgraded this weekend.
  • Ask Questions: do you ask enough questions to your coworkers? You might be surprised by the impact of asking a question instead of always giving an answer or an opinion. A question shows that you’re interested in your coworker. Questions demonstrate your interest in other people and is a way of redirecting the conversation onto them.
  • Share feelings: it is possible that you don’t share enough about your inner self with your co-workers. Feelings and emotions enrich a conversation. Otherwise, it can be purely ‘down to business’ and simply mechanical. Try talking about how you feel about a situation, as well as what you’re doing within it. Example: the delivery of that package is going to be late, and I am very disappointed about it.
  • Use ‘because’: this might seem obvious, but it’s often forgotten. Using the word because can have a dramatic effect on getting others to listen and take action. Giving a reason for your request can increase compliance from 60% to 90%.
  • Use humor: a humorous slant on some situations can make a big difference to being heard. I don’t mean constantly tell jokes like a stand-up – but instead offer something light-hearted. Humor can relieve stress and tension in the workplace.
  • Be self-depractating: a humble approach can make all the difference, even when you don’t lack confidence. It is the opposite of being bold, but it can be an effective means of getting others to pay attention – often as a counter-behavior when coworkers expect you to be brash and over-confident. Example: I am useless at these things, so I would really like your help…
  • Tell your story (but keep it short): a story makes things interesting, and adds context to a conversation. People are interested in other people’s stories, and human behaviour. If you’re explaining something, you could add your story as to what led you to that explanation in the first place.
  • Be surprising, or fascinating: there may be a very interesting fact or surprise about what you have to say, even if you don’t know it yet. A little research might reveal something amazing about your subject, and this could be shared with coworkers to add that interest-factor. Example: did you know that 90% of customers who order this model pen also order this model notepad at the same time? Maybe we should discuss how this can help the warehouse people?
  • Use a combination!: Use a combination of these to great effect. Example: I need some help clearing out the stationery cupboard because it has got really dirty [the power of because] – there are more cobwebs in there than there are pens [humor]. It hasn’t been cleaned out for four years since we had the fire! [surprising] You’re probably too busy to help me with this, but I thought I should ask [self-effacing].

Try this book

How to Talk So People Will Listen, by Steve Brown, is the perfect companion for discovering how to make an impact with your verbal communication. Full of implementable, practical tips, this book helps readers learn how to persuade, influence, and put forward a convincing argument; use timing and the right words to come across as an authority on a subject; and talking so that the whole room is captivated by your every word. Recommended!

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This post is part 16 of 20 in the series Effective Communication
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Simon is a creative and passionate business leader dedicated to having fun in the pursuit of high performance and personal development. He is co-founder of Applied Change, a Business Change consultancy based in the UK. Simon is also an Ambassador for Gloucestershire business. Simon is an Associate Member of the Chartered Institute of Professional Development.

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