Do you find yourself in the frustrating position where people just won’t listen to you, even though you think you have good ideas that will help your company, organization, or the individual? If you do, don’t lose heart! There are definitely some things you can do to change this.If people aren’t listening to you there are several scenarios.
The Organization (or the individual) Is Dysfunctional
This is definitely a possibility, but the question is, how do you know it is the organization or individual that is dysfunctional and not you? This is not as easy to determine as it sounds as our perceptions and reality often get in the way of seeing the truth. You have to look for clues that are not emotionally based. Here are some sure signs that the problem is the organization and not you.
- Groupthink exists in the organization. There is a belief that the organization can do no wrong. Outsiders are often looked down upon. Many (not just you) practice self censorship because they know speaking up would bring isolation.
- Leaders don’t seek input from the organization or team on a regular basis.
- Leaders speak before they listen… if they listen at all
- People are not valued.
- Money and Success are the ONLY drivers that are promoted
A word of caution – when most of us don’t feel listened to, we almost always assume it is not our fault. Be very very… very… careful about assuming the problem is not you. In many cases, the problem is within us, and the reason is a lack of credibility.
Lack of Credibility
If people aren’t listening to you, it’s because you lack credibility. Here are some common causes of losing credibility:
- Lack of experience – How long have you been doing whatever your trade is? After doing project management for almost 20 years, I realize how little I knew, even 10 years ago. If there are certifications in your field, are you certified? If you aren’t experienced as others, they may tend to ignore your advice.
- Lack of incubation – How long have you been in your organization? No one likes to be told they are doing something wrong by a newbie. Don’t mistake an invitation to “bring about change” as an open door to just spurt out what you think is wrong. Approach this slowly. Look for positives first and TACTFULLY introduce changes in a positive manner.
- Lack of Tact – If you can’t control your tongue, people will stop listening. You can disagree, but never, ever, get into an argument. Arguments are never won. Even if you make a point, you just made an enemy who will sabotage you if given the chance.
- Putting Your Interests First – You may have good things to say. But… if they are all about you, or about your way of looking at things, people will see through this and will tend not to listen. People will listen to you, if they think you have their interests at heart. Read How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.
- Lack of people skills – This is a big one. If you are technically proficient, but can’t connect with others, people will tend to dismiss you as a nuisance. To learn people skills, you have to begin to take an interest in people. If you want to relate to others, you must learn about what they are interested in. How do you do this? Get out more. Go to the movies, sporting events, car shows, shopping. Do something that others are interested in. You should also go out and talk about other things than work. Build relationships. Read Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi.
- Loss of Perspective – In many cases you may be only looking at one very small portion of a larger picture. In some cases your advice, while good, may be too narrow and miss the larger picture. When this happens, others will think you don’t get it. Practice taking a step back and trying to look at the overall picture.
- Lack of Conviction – If you keep changing your mind, others will view you as wishy washy. If you have a position that can be defended, don’t keep changing your mind about it. If you are wrong, admit you are wrong and move on. Don’t change your opinion just to go with the flow.
If people won’t listen to you, it’s because you lack credibility. Take some time to develop an action plan on the points above that sound like they might pertain to you.
All the best!
All the time!