12 Aug 2013

5 Reasons Why No One Listens to You

We all have a common complaint with the world – it doesn't listen to us. Our kids, friends, parents, office colleagues – no one listens to us. But they should! They should heed every word we say. And do as we say. After all we know what’s best for them. We know the best way to do things. Right? Wrong!

The world is increasingly becoming louder. People are raising their voices to be heard over others. And you're increasingly getting stressed because people won't listen to you. But why won't they? Honestly, the problem doesn't lie with them. It lies with you.

Here are 5 basic reasons why your kids/spouse/friends/parents/office colleagues/peers won't listen to you. Tell me if you're nodding while reading even 1:

1.) You’re not saying things right: In ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’, Dale Carnegie said “The only way to make someone do something is to make him want to do it.” It’s so good I’m going to repeat it: 

The only way to make someone do something is to make him want to do it. 

Try this: Stand up and tell someone “I want you to _____ (fill in the blanks with what you want done)”. On the other hand, show the person what she stands to gain from doing a task. Study your success rate in each case.

It’s obvious that the 2nd method is more successful. Everyone thinks about just 1 person – himself! Every man has just 1 thought when doing something “What will I get out of it.” So tomorrow if your child isn't listening to you, try telling him in simple language what his benefit is. Eating boring food will make him strong enough to fight the bully, behaving well will make more people like him and he will get more friends. If you want your spouse to help in house cleaning, tell him how sharing responsibilities will take his mind off work and refresh him...you get the drift. Remember, the only way someone will do something when he sees his benefit in it.

2.) You’re interfering too much: You may be a Niccolo Tesla in your field, but interfere too much in other people’s work and kiss your popularity goodbye. Meddlesome people are not appreciated, neither are they sought after. Maybe people will listen to them, but only grudgingly. They don't make true friends and followers; people who align to their way of thought, who listen to what they say and do it because they want to. They only find puppets, and after one point in time, the puppets start slowing them down.
As William McKnight, Chairman of 3M says “If you fence around people, you get sheep. Give them the room they need.” What sound advice! Let people think for themselves. Let your kids do something which isn't critical the wrong way; let your friends go to a restaurant which you've told them is not good. Let your office colleague try something different. She may show you an alternate way of doing things. Else she will learn her own lessons. And trust me, when you speak less, people listen to you more.

3.) Your concepts are not clear: People want to listen to you, but you’re not making sense. Things you are talking about are so complex that listeners have zoned out within a couple of minutes. Your concepts, beliefs and ideas are too hard to comprehend, let alone implement. Are you guilty of these aspects when you speak to someone?
Albert Einstein said “If you can’t explain something simply, you don’t understand it.” I'm going to do it again. I'm going to repeat it.

If you can’t explain something simply, you don’t understand it.

Herb Kelleher had explained the business model of Southwest Airlines to Rollin King on a napkin. When you want to explain something to someone, keep it short and simple. Tell your child or spouse what you want in simple terms briskly. Give your office colleagues a gist of your idea in less than 60 seconds. That will keep your ideas simple. Plus, the human brain comprehends simple ideas and concepts easily. That’s why Apple products are so popular… they’re clear, uncluttered and simple enough to not need a manual.
"I'm not listening to you!"

4.) You’re not listening: You’re busy fiddling with your cell phone, staring at your computer screen, fiddling with pages of a book or admiring the scene around. This makes the talker feel belittled, disrespected. So why will she listen to you? 
Studies show that the human mind mirrors what it sees. So if it sees gloom, it turns sad. If it sees happiness, it is filled with joy. Likewise, if the mind gauges that the person in front is not listening, it won’t listen either. People will give only when they get, and not vice versa. So if you want someone to listen to you, listen to them first.

5.) You’re a self professed ‘Know-It-All’: “I know what we should talk about in this meeting. Listen to me.” “I know how your friends behave on your playground. Don’t lie to me!” “I know how your boss must be. It must be your attitude because of which he troubles you.” “I know how the marketing team must function (though I’m a part of HR).” “I know how economics works (though I've never even touched the subject)”. “I know… don’t tell me.” “I know… don’t teach me.” Have you come across someone like this in your life?
If you’ve lived a normal life, you certainly have. And how do you feel when this person speaks? And maybe… just maybe… people aren't listening to you because you indulge in this yourself. The ‘I Know Everything’ attitude is the biggest recipe for disaster. Not only will you repulse people, but you will also get so neck deep in shit in life that you won’t be able to find your way out. No one knows everything. There is always someone better than you at everything you know or do.

Man or woman has rarely achieved anything without others. Man, by design, is a social animal. Dhoni achieved all he did in the cricket world because he had team members who listened to him. Even Gandhi became the Father of the Nation only after people listened to (and followed) him. If you want to discipline your kids, be popular among friends, climb up the corporate ladder or simply have a gratifying relationship, you need people to listen to you. Nelson Mandela, Benjamin Franklin, Martin Luther King Jr. – they've understood and abided by this ultimate truth. It’s time we did too!

What are other reasons because of which people may not listen to you? Do share your thoughts in comments.

image Courtesy: Google Images


  1. This was such a truly beautiful post. You have quoted management gurus as well as real life examples to put your point across.

    Completely agree with you when you say that the art of listening has pretty much disappeared nowadays. And these simple, small tips will go a long way in ensuring that people actually understand what we are saying and will listen to us.

  2. Wow. Now i Know why everyone listens to you !!

    I am picking all the things from here and applying it in my life right away :)

    You rock, dude !!

    1. Thanks for your kind words, dude. But sometimes even I get carried away by emotion and am guilty of all the things this post says we shouldn't do.

      Am working on improving my skills also :)

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  4. Hi Vishal,
    Really Nice post. You have put it up well, dressed it nicely and maintained a good flow.
    Informative and crisp posts.I agree to all the points.
    Keep the good stuff coming.

    1. Thanks Swati. Glad you liked it... It's a little on the lines of your blog theme... so if you liked it I must be doing something right indeed :)

  5. Hey Vishal,

    All of it that you have written is true. I will incorporate some, which I am guilty of doing .

    You have written this one so well. It appears it's written by a professional Writer( not that you are not;) already ) or management guru. I am very lazy when it comes to reading books from great men that you have quoted here. Articles like these encapsulate the great wisdom these people share in a crisp manner..
    I am sure you will one day be a great public speaker and trainer apart from all that you already are.

    Looking forward to more from you.

    1. Thanks Neha... Very encouraging words indeed :)

  6. Wow Vishal. A detailed explanation of why people dont listen to us and how to change this. Cool! :)

  7. Lovely post Vishal and very very valid points . I do try to explain the good effects of doing things to my kid :) and know_it_all s , they are an absolute turn off ! Sometimes adding a simple ' may be u should' before your suggestions would make people listen. That way their egos are intact and the ball still lies in their court :)

    1. Great point, Jaish. That's one thing that's very handy - Maybe You Should!

  8. Yes, Vishal. I kept nodding while reading the entire post. Couldn't agree more to what you have highlighted here. We should try and correct ourselves first before pointing out faults in others. People don't listen to us because... there is a reason. I especially loved that quote by Einstein. I am so glad I read this post, taking away a lot from it. Many thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks Arti! If an accomplished blogger like you liked this post, I must be doing some things right :)

  9. A wonderful read Vishal! I think you have given the solution to one of the major problems everybody faces! Point number one, I feel, is one of the most important reasons that you have highlighted. Enjoyed this read! :)


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