Few situations are as frustrating as not being heard when you have something to say. Maybe you’ve spoken your mind, but your concerns were brushed away. Maybe your ideas seem to fall on deaf ears. Maybe it’s something else.
In most cases, one of the three techniques below can help you change the tide.
1. Keep It Short, but Repeat It
People forget things, and sometimes your words are among those things. They’re probably not doing this on purpose, but it can still make you feel ignored.
Before you try anything else, try repeating yourself. Really! Repetition isn’t rude: it’s effective communication. For decades, experts have suggested that people need to hear something at least three times before they’ll remember it. Others think it takes at least seven repetitions.
In any case, people need to get the message more than once. That’s why the “CLEARANCE: 50% OFF” signs are plastered all over the store, not just on the front window.
So, if there’s a message you need to get across, start by saying it once in a concise way. Then, say it again. And again. Say it aloud, and say it over email and chat. Each time you repeat it, it will get harder to forget.
If this doesn’t work, move on to the next step.
2. Ask to Give a Prepared Talk
Let’s say you have some valuable ideas, but you feel like they’re falling on deaf ears. In this case, the other people might be too distracted to think deeply about what you’re saying. As a result, they’re not taking action based on what you’ve said.
A great way to approach this is to prepare a talk on a specific subject. You could give the talk to a room full of people, or you could give it to two or three decision-makers in a quieter setting. You could frame your ideas in a proposal, or you could give a knowledge-sharing talk to share your expertise with coworkers. More likely than not, your manager would be delighted to set aside an hour for you to give a prepared talk about something that matters to you.
If you aren’t trying to get a specific idea across, but you need to be heard more in general, move on to the third step.
3. Get Yourself on the Agenda
If you’re feeling left behind in meetings, talk to the person running the meeting in advance and get yourself on the agenda. This is a simple, effective way to get a guaranteed opportunity to talk.
If this doesn’t make sense at your workplace, you can still let people know in advance that you have something to offer. For example, after you get an email about the meeting, you can reply, “I’m looking forward to this meeting and getting a chance to share my ideas about X!” This does two things. First, it inspires some interest that will get people to pay attention in the meeting. Second, it ensures that the person running the meeting will give you enough time to say your piece.
When All Else Fails, Begin Your Hunt
If you have tried all three of these methods and you still feel unheard, you and your employer might not be a good fit. It’s time to start looking for another job. Once you have an offer, that gives you options—and leverage—in an otherwise difficult situation.
The Financial Brand. “Say It Again: Messages Are More Effective When Repeated.” The Financial Brand, 23 Sept. 2014, https://thefinancialbrand.com/42323/advertising-marketing-messages-effective-frequency/.
Jojarth, Marton. “It’s Not Nagging: Repetition Is Effective Communication.” 19 Jan. 2020, https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/its-nagging-repetition-effective-communication-marton-jojarth.