How to Hear and Be Heard

Have you ever been in a brainstorming session or a meeting and felt like someone placed you on mute? Have you ever felt like you are constantly interrupted when you speak or that people talk over you? It is not pleasant, and can leave you feeling frustrated, demoralized and hopeless.

If you’ve been there, I challenge you to be conscious of your actions in upcoming meetings because I believe we have all been on the opposite side of this fence. Are you dismissing what your coworkers have to say or making it difficult for them to talk to you? Shifting your consciousness to your own actions will help your teammates be heard.

Adopting some of the practices I list here can be difficult – I struggle with a few of them daily – but if your overall goal is a culture of respect and teamwork, you will want to do your very best with these ideas.

  • Recognize when you are passionate about the discussion. Passion can often lead you to focus on your thoughts on the topic rather than on your delivery. Your teammates may have insight into an idea that you haven’t considered.
  • Are you anxious? Whether you are anxious about a professional or personal situation, anxiety can increase your need to be heard and cause you to ignore your team members who are offering information.
  • If you are leading the meeting, be proactive and build your team’s confidence by encouraging and empowering them to speak up rather than shutting them down. Listen to their idea. You don’t necessarily have to move forward with them, but you do need to listen and consider their suggestions.
  • If you are participating in the meeting and recognize that someone is being talked over or ignored, speak up. Try, “Let’s listen to what Joe has to say.” That is often all it takes to pull others into the conversation.
  • Have you noticed a team member sitting quietly but looking dissatisfied? Ask that person what their thoughts are on the subject. If they won’t speak openly in a meeting, pull them aside afterward and provide them with a safe space to voice their opinion.
  • Do not allow yourself to spread negativity. Positivity can be difficult if you are struggling with a specific situation or decision. You will need to focus on being positive. On this same note, shut down negativity wherever you see it.

We are all responsible for the culture of our work environment. Do not expect perfection, and allow yourself and your team members some grace because you will stumble. Encourage open conversations about the idea above. The culture and expectations at your office and reinforcement of those practices starts with you.

Remember this quote, which is attributed to Buddha: “One moment can change a day, one day can change a life, and one life can change the world.”

Originally Published in Collector Magazine.

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