It can be discouraging not to feel heard or like people regularly talk over you. You may watch other people who seem to navigate social situations with ease and confidence and wish you had that same ability.
The first thing to remember is that you have ideas and stories that are worth being heard! Thankfully, there are things you can do to help people listen to you more.
Before moving on to some possible solutions, let’s consider why you’re not being heard.
Why Are People Not Listening to You?
There can be many reasons you are not being listened to. Most of them fall into one of two categories. First, people may have a hard time hearing you. Second, your listeners may not engage with what you are saying.
Thankfully there are ways to work on both of these areas!
If your listeners cannot hear you, you can work on enunciating clearly, speaking louder, and finding the right pace of speech. This can be hard, especially for introverts or people who have a hard time speaking in front of groups, but practice makes progress.
If people are not paying attention to you, you can help by finding common ground, being entertaining (without being inauthentic), and offering them new and interesting information.
We’ll get into more specific tips for both of these challenges in just a moment!
12 Tips to Get People to Listen to You
If you’re struggling to be heard, use these tips to help you speak more clearly, louder, and effectively.
#1 “Once upon a time….”
Tell a story with what you are saying. People are drawn to stories. If you can weave your words into a tale that captivates the imagination, you will be more likely to keep the interest of your listeners.
Princeton researchers found that when a story is being told, both the storyteller’s and the listener’s brains register the smells described, the emotions felt, and the movements made. In this way, stories connect those present.
So how do you tell a good story?
Here are 5 key aspects of storytelling to keep in mind:
- Describe details: What was happening? Who was there?
- Use sensory information: Add details like smell, sight, and sounds to engage your listeners.
- Add your feelings: Let your listeners know how you felt in the moment! This gives their brain the ability to feel those emotions with you.
- Keep it concise: It can be easy to add unnecessary details when telling a story. Stick with the details that support the goal of your story!
- Don’t give spoilers: Tell the listeners the story as it unfolded for you. Let them be a part of the journey.
Here’s an example of what this could look like put into practice:
“My brother and I went to the beach the other day at sunrise. It was a chilly, windy morning, so we weren’t expecting many people to be there. We took our skateboards, thinking it would be fun to skate up and down the boardwalk. Being so early, we were pretty tired but super excited. The city recently repaved the boardwalk, and our friends had skated on it a few days earlier and said it was awesome!
When we got there, we were surprised to see a massive crowd. Can you guess what was going on? We had forgotten it was the annual dog surfing competition! So although we didn’t get to skate as we’d hoped, we did get to hang out and watch some pups catch some waves.”
If you want to learn more about telling a good story, read our article How to Tell a Great Story: Learn Science of Storytelling.
And if you don’t believe that there is a dog surfing competition, check this out:
#2 Make ‘em laugh
Some people are naturally funny, while others have a harder time cracking a joke. The good news is that you can develop your sense of humor and become funnier!
Here are a few ways to be funny (even if you naturally aren’t):
- Surprise people by saying “yes” when the obvious answer is “no”—or vice versa.
- Switch up the characteristics of your characters. If you’re telling a story and there’s a trait clearly associated with the other character, it can be funny to make a comment attributing it to the other character. For example, if you mention you’re scared to go into the ocean where there have been shark sightings, you could add, “You know, I’d hate to accidentally bite a shark.” This is just silly and preposterous enough that people might laugh.
- If someone is teasing you, brush it off by saying, “whatever.” People will often tease you to see how you’ll handle it. They may expect you to lose your cool and get frustrated. You can flip the script by casually brushing it off with a “whatever” and rolling your eyes.
For more tips to become funnier, check out our article, How to Be Funny: 7 Easy Steps to Improve Your Humor.
Fun Fact: Did you know there are different types of laughs? Check out this video to learn more about laughter!
#3 Hook and reel
Prep your audience by giving them an idea of what to expect throughout the story. This can help catch their attention and provide them with a reason to keep listening to you.
Try using sentences like these to catch your listener’s attention:
- “I had the strangest experience the other day….”
- “You won’t believe who I ran into at the grocery store.”
- “We met in the funniest way.”
Intro sentences like these help give your listener an idea of what to expect. They can “prep” them and signal if you are about to tell a sad, funny, or surprising story.
And if you want even more juicy conversation tips, check out our goodie!
#4 Have a thesis statement
Just like writing a high school essay, let your listeners know your goal of speaking before you get too far into what you’re saying.
For example, if you’re trying to agree on what restaurant to go to with your friends, you might start by saying, “I think we should go to the Cheesecake Factory because they have a big menu where everyone can find something they want to eat.”
You could then mention all the other reasons you think you should go to Cheesecake Factory. Then, finish by reiterating that this is the restaurant you feel would be best.
This same format works for more serious instances as well!
For example, if you’re presenting in a meeting on why your team should try a new approach for working on projects, you could start by saying, “I believe by using [new method name], we could streamline our process and be more effective with time.”
Then, explain how the new approach would do that. Finish by reiterating that you believe this will help your team be more effective with their time.
#5 If you’re unhappy, make it constructive
There will be times when someone does something you’re not pleased with. Do your best to give them feedback in a constructive way.
Too much negativity or destructive criticism can make people less likely to listen to you in the future. Do your best to make your criticism constructive.
Constructive criticism differs from destructive criticism in three main ways:
- It’s compassionate
- It’s specific
- It’s a match
This means there should be specific ways they can implement the feedback to grow and improve. It should be given kindly. And you should only give them constructive criticism if you’re someone who it makes sense for it to be coming from—for example, a boss or close friend.
Constructive criticism acknowledges the problem and then offers a possible solution.
For example, “I’ve been discouraged because you’ve been late to a few recent meetings. Can we talk about what’s going on? Something that helps me is adding a reminder on my phone 15 minutes before the meeting starts. This gives me time to make a cup of coffee or use the restroom before I log onto Zoom.”
#6 Use volume to your advantage
If you’re presenting to a room full of people and notice attention slipping, try switching up your speaking volume. People can start to zone out when you speak at the same volume and pace for a long time.
The key: Be dynamic with your volume.
Here are some ways you can switch it up to help keep people engaged:
- Speak softer! This may feel counterintuitive, but it challenges people to concentrate more to catch what you’re saying. You may notice people starting to lean in to hear you better.
- Speak one or two notes louder. Avoid shouting, but occasionally raise your voice with passion (not anger) during a presentation when you feel strongly. This can cause people to tune back into what you’re saying.
- Use silence. Silence can feel very uncomfortable—and unexpected. It can also give your listeners time to process what you’ve said. After making a point, let the silence sit for a moment before moving forward. This is especially powerful after a rhetorical question.
- Repeat yourself. If there’s a point you really want to make, don’t shy away from repeating it over and over and over again. This can help it solidify in people’s minds.
Vanessa Van Edwards talks about how to use volume, pace, and even voice tone in her bestselling book, Cues: Master the Secret Language of Charismatic Communication.
#7 Ooze confidence
You can make yourself sound more confident by removing clutter words such as “like,” “well,” or “um.” These words can undermine your authority and make it seem like you lack confidence.
Are you especially prone to using a specific filler word? Pay attention to your words the next time you’re on the phone or talking face-to-face with someone. Think about if there are filler words you overuse. Being aware of your speech patterns can help you break your bad habit.
Another component of confidence is your body language and posture—don’t be scared to take up space!
It’s easy to shrink into a small space when you’re feeling stressed. Your listeners will likely recognize this as a posture that shows a lack of confidence.
Instead, try this:
- Stand with your feet shoulder width (or more) apart
- Keep your hands in front of you (rather than in your pocket or crossed in front of your body)
- Pull your shoulders back
- Hold your head straight up
As you’re walking onto the stage or to the front of the room, show friendliness by flashing a smile and giving an eyebrow flash. An eyebrow flash is when your eyebrows quickly rise and fall.
These small gestures can show others that you are confident and friendly.
#8 Pace yourself
It can be easy when you start talking in front of a room full of people to let the nerves settle in and start speaking too fast.
This can make it hard for people to understand you. If someone doesn’t think they’ll be able to understand you, they’ll typically stop listening as closely.
In The Art of Presentation: Your Competitive Edge, authors Dr. Ray Hull and Jim Stoval share that if you speak too fast, you can exceed the rate the brain can comprehend easily. This makes the listener focus more and work harder to understand you.
On the other hand, if you speak a little slower, you give your listeners a chance to process what you’re saying as you speak. This can make it easier for them to comprehend and stay engaged with what you are saying.
So what’s the best speed to talk at when you’re speaking?
Roughly the same pace that you would have a one-on-one conversation at. The goal is to avoid letting your nerves make you speed up too much when giving a presentation or speaking to a larger group of people.
Most people speak at roughly 125 words per minute (WPM). A range from 110 to 180 is what people find easiest to follow and understand.
Action Step: If you’re curious about how fast you talk, you can use this WPM test to measure it.
#9 Speak from deep down
If you’re naturally a quieter person, you’re probably tired of hearing, “Speak up; I can’t hear you.” If you’ve tried to speak louder but just can’t seem to, try re-orienting your approach from “louder” to “deeper.”
The reason for this is that your breath energizes your speech. Speaking with a more grounded breathing technique can help you access that extra volume you’ve been struggling to find.
The diaphragm is a muscle at the base of your rib cage. When you inhale, it contracts to flatten and fill your lungs with air.
Diaphragmatic breathing is also often called belly breathing because your stomach expands as your body fills with air.
You can make sure you’re breathing deeply by placing one hand on your sternum and the other on your stomach. Breathe in slowly while paying attention to which hand is rising. If your sternum hand is rising, exhale and try again.
You want your hand on your stomach rising and falling as you breathe.
Once you are breathing deeply, try taking a couple of deep breaths to help you lock in what that feels like. Next, try speaking with the additional power and energy these deep breaths give you.
If you are still struggling to increase your volume, imagine a spot just beyond the room’s far end. Imagine that you are trying to speak loud enough that someone standing there could hear you. This works especially well if there is a window. You can imagine someone is listening from the sidewalk outside of the window.
It may feel uncomfortable at first to speak louder, but it can help those around you hear you better—which is worth it in the long run.
#10 Enunciate clearly
If people are having a hard time understanding you, they may tune out and stop listening to you. Try exaggerating your consonants when you speak—especially if you’re using a microphone.
You can do this by doing some speech warm-ups. It’s common for speakers to have a hard time clearly enunciating fricatives. Fricatives are a specific type of sound that is produced when airflow moves through a partially blocked opening.
The three pairs of fricatives are:
- “F” and “V”
- “S” and “Z”
- “Th” as in “think” and “Th” as in “this”
With each of these duos, before you give a speech, start by saying one letter roughly 10 times. Then, switch to the other letter and say it roughly 10 times. Finally, switch between the two, making sure each one retains its original sound.
Here’s what this looks like:
Then, move on to the next set of fricatives.
You can also try saying tongue twisters to warm up your mouth for speaking! Try whispering and really “spitting” your consonants.
Here’s one to start with:
Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,
A peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked,
If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,
Where’s the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?
This article has 50 more tongue twisters to help you practice and warm up before your next big presentation.
#11 Stop competing for auditory real estate
Is someone else already talking? That’s a pretty obvious sign that most people won’t be ready to listen to you. However, other things may also take up auditory real estate around you.
For example, if television is turned on, it may distract the person you’re trying to connect with from hearing you well. Other distractions can be loud noises outside, distracting music, or other conversations nearby.
You may not always be able to control the setting. But if possible, try to create a space where you can speak without distractions—especially for more serious conversations.
For example, you might ask the person you’re speaking with if they would be alright moving to a quieter room. Or you could ask your waiter at a restaurant if it’s possible to make the music a little softer.
If the conversation is with your partner, you may say something like, “I agree that this is an important conversation for us to have. I’m having a hard time concentrating in this environment. Would you be alright if we wait and finish talking about this in the car or at home?”
In doing this, you are acknowledging the importance of the conversation, explaining why this timing isn’t working for you, and offering a clear alternative.
#12 Don’t talk all the time
Some people struggle with oversharing—even if they don’t have much substance to add to the conversation. If you speak all the time, people may stop trusting that you have specific and insightful things to say when you do speak.
It’s a bit like the old folk tale of the “Boy Who Cried, ‘Wolf.’” Because the boy cried for help when he was safe so many times, the other villagers stopped trusting his call for help. Then, when he truly did need help, no one came to his rescue.
Similarly, if you always speak up, people may not believe you know what you’re talking about. They might get so used to the sound of your voice that they start to tune it out.
Be a good listener and support others as they’re talking! If you struggle with listening well, check out our article 15 Effective Tips on How to Talk Less (And Listen More!).
How Aggressive Do You Need to Be to Get People to Listen?
You don’t need to be overly aggressive to get people to listen to you. Instead, work towards showing that you are confident in what you are saying. You can show confidence through body language and by choosing your words well.
When choosing your words, avoid using filler words such as “like,” “well,” or “um.” It’s very natural to use these when you’re nervous or looking for your next word. However, they can undermine your authority and make it seem like you lack confidence.
Your body language can read as more confident when you take up more space. It’s easy to shrink into a small space when you’re feeling stressed.
If the person you’re speaking with begins to get aggressive, staying calm and confident can also help diffuse the situation. Confidence can show that you are not intimidated by them, nor will you be influenced by their aggression.
How to Get People to Listen to You When You’re Quiet?
If you’re naturally a quiet person, choose one of two approaches to being heard—either speak a little louder or find a quieter space to talk in.
You may be tired of hearing that you need to speak louder. As a quieter person, you probably already know you struggle with that. However, there may be short instances where that is the best way forward.
In those moments, breathe deep and speak using your breath energy (more on that in a moment). It can also be helpful to envision that you are talking to someone much further away. For example, if someone is standing in front of you, imagine they are standing by the door on the other side of the room. This can help you project a little louder.
The other option is to find a quieter space. Try saying, “It’s really loud in here; can we step outside for a moment?”
By relocating to a quieter space, it makes it easier for the person you’re speaking with to hear you, even if you do speak softly.
How to Get People Who Don’t Like You to Listen to You?
If you know you’re talking to people who don’t like you, try to begin the conversation by finding common ground. This can help them listen to you as they recognize you’re trying to relate to them. It can also help the conversation move forward more constructively.
For example, if you are speaking with an upset client, you might start by saying, “I understand you’re frustrated and am sorry the website doesn’t look how you were envisioning. We both want you to be really happy with the end design. Here are my suggestions for how we move forward.”
By doing this, you establish that you understand they are dissatisfied, apologize for your part in the problem, voice out that you both want the same goal, and finally offer a solution for how to move forward.
You can also build rapport with the other person by connecting over shared interests less relevant to the conversation. The first few moments of a conversation are a great opportunity to do this.
For example, if you see someone wearing a shirt with a sports team logo, you could ask if they watched the game on Saturday. Or if someone is pulling earbuds out as you walk up, casually ask what they were listening to.
How to Get People to Listen to You on the Phone?
If you’re talking on the phone, it is important to keep the pace of the conversation moving forward. Social scientists have found that speaking for longer than 40 seconds puts you in danger of being perceived as rambling or oversharing.
You may, of course, need to extend past the 40-second rule when you’re getting into the details of a business call. The key here is to catch the listeners’ attention with a “hook” or “elevator pitch” at the beginning of your time talking to them.
Start by asking a few questions and gauging what they are looking for (and if you or your product can help meet their needs). Then, tailor the conversation to their specific needs.
If you are expanding on a business idea and feel like you’ve been talking for a long time, offer your listener a chance to chime in by asking, “Do you have any questions about what I’ve said so far?” This can help keep your listener engaged.
Speak to Be Heard
Whether it’s speaking up a bit louder or learning how to speak engagingly, there are concrete things you can do to help yourself be heard.
Remember to do these things:
- Know your audience: Who are you speaking to? Do they already agree with you, or do you need to find common ground before giving your thesis statement? Consider your audience when deciding what stories to tell as well. For example, if you want to illustrate the importance of hard work, you might tell a story about your first fishing trip to outdoorsy and adventurous people. On the other hand, if you’re speaking in an academic setting, you might talk about when you first started learning a new language and how much work that took.
- Be engaging: Use techniques like humor, stories, volume variation, and pace to draw your audience in. Entertain and inform the people listening to you to the best of your ability.
- Trust that you have something worth being said: Tell your stories and share your knowledge with the confidence that others will want to hear you. Some people lack confidence in themselves and don’t share their stories or share them with an apologetic air. You can help people listen to you by speaking up and speaking with confidence.
- Be an engaged and supportive listener: Remember to listen well when others speak. This shows others that you care about them and are engaged in the conversation, not just waiting for the next chance to talk.
Crack The Code on Facial Expressions
The human face is constantly sending signals, and we use it to understand the person’s intentions when we speak to them.
In Decode, we dive deep into these microexpressions to teach you how to instantly pick up on them and understand the meaning behind what is said to you.
Don’t spend another day living in the dark.
Check out our article on How to Talk to Anyone About Anything to improve your conversation skills!