How To Be Heard When Someone Isn’t Listening

Have you ever found yourself in a situation in which you really want someone to just understand your point of view, but they can’t seem to get it? You try and try to get your message across, and all you want is an experience of being heard, but it just doesn’t happen?

Well, there are strategies you can implement that will help you to get that experience of being heard. One way to do it is by listening yourself.

Yes, I know it is difficult to give someone else the satisfaction of fully and actively listening to them, especially in a conflict situation, and especially when that person is not actively listening to you. The thing is, they probably don’t have the capacity to hear you because their own thoughts are taking up too much real estate in their minds. Allow them to get out whatever message they need to get out, and truly listen to them with presence. Try to see if you can care about what they are sharing, too. Show genuine interest and reflect back what you are hearing them say. You can even take some guesses as to what their feelings and needs are in the situation as well.

Once you have done this, not only will you have a greater understanding for what is going on for that person, but you will also empty their minds of the chatter they had backed up, and therefore clear some space for the message that you would like to share. Also, in conflict situations especially, people tend to calm down and lose their charge when they have an experience of being heard. Generally after that, they are willing to hear you as well. They may not do it with the intentionality, presence, and skill in which you did for them, but you modeling how you would like to be treated is a start. It may go unnoticed to the conscious mind, but subconsciously, they may have picked up on a bit.

Now, sometimes, this doesn’t work. Sometimes, your conversation partner will be stuck in their minds on a thought or set of thoughts, and they can’t get to that place of emptying the thought in order to hear you. Or maybe they can get there, but you just don’t have time to wait around for that to happen. Alternatively, you may not be in a space to fully hear them because your own message is taking up space in your mind. This is where a third party comes in.

If you are consistently hitting a wall with someone and not having an experience of being heard with them, go find someone else who has the ability to hear you. While they may not be the person you really want to understand you, it is still really nice to have someone hear you. You can even tell them exactly how you would like to be heard. Maybe you want silence with some head nods. Maybe you need something a little more. Maybe you want empathy from them in the form of presence, reflection, and needs guesses. Here are two helpful links that detail exactly how to give empathy (1, 2).

Even though the person you want to receive your message is not getting it, having a general experience of being heard can really help you to find some calm and ease around the situation. Just like hearing someone else cal lessen their charge, the same is true for you, even if the person hearing you isn’t your first choice.

Along with lessening your charge, having an experience of being heard may even free up some space in your mind to find some clarity around what is really bothering you. Sometimes we think we know what’s going on internally, but calming down allows us to use our pre-frontal cortex and really discern what needs we have around any given situation.