Over the years, I’ve met intelligent, motivated, and driven people who struggle to keep other people’s attention. Whether it was a team meeting, a job interview, or even being featured in the media, they just lost everyone’s interest. Once they start talking, I can see the others look around, roll their eyes, or check their phones. And for the record, this isn’t about ego or trying to be a celebrity – it’s about the importance of getting your message heard.
You may not consider yourself in this category; however, if you have noticed that people aren’t as interested in you as they used to be, this list can help. Start following these important principles, and you should definitely start noticing more people paying attention to what you have to say:
1) Speak in shorter chunks. Few people realize how long they talk without a break, so in any conversation, be sure to let people respond – and often. I recommend talking in 15-second (or less) segments, then stopping to let other people reply. The best way to do this is to remember to stick to the topic and not wander down rabbit trails. You don’t have to go into detail about everything or give the subject’s history. Keep it short and relevant to this particular conversation because, in most cases, less is almost always more.
2) Don’t dominate the conversation. Sure, you’re passionate about your topic. It may be your life’s work, hobby, faith, or something else very close to your heart. But in the conversation, take a break. Let it breathe. Let them interrupt or ask questions. Never forget that conversation is a two-way street, not a monologue
3) Don’t lecture. There’s a major difference between engaging in conversation and lecturing. Regardless of the importance of your message, be careful about getting in their face. No one likes a lecture or a sermon in a conversation, and you’ll lose them immediately. So stop trying to prove a point and make it a give-and-take.
4) Ask about them. I’ve known a designer friend for years, and in hundreds of conversations we’ve had over that time, she’s never once asked about me. She talks about herself constantly and isn’t the least bit interested in other people. The next time you’re in a conversation – in any context – focus on them, not yourself. Never forget to ask, “What’s happening in your life?”
And while I’m on that subject, don’t forget to use their name. The great motivational speaker and writer Dale Carnegie said, “Using a person’s name is crucial, especially when meeting those we don’t see very often. Respect and acceptance stem from simple acts such as remembering a person’s name and using it whenever appropriate.”
5) Finally, learn to read other people. I’m always shocked when I see people talking away, oblivious to the fact that the other people are checking their phones, looking around the room, and have completely checked out of the conversation. A great opera singer once said, “Stop singing before the audience has stopped listening.” That’s a rule all of us should remember.
Keep your eyes on the other person’s body language, and anytime you see signs your conversational partner is losing interest, it’s probably because you violated something on this list. Make the adjustment quickly before they end it.
It’s easy to think we’re all great communicators, but I would challenge you to consider this list during your next conversation, media interview, or other engagement. In today’s distracted world, we need to ensure we’re getting heard absolutely, and this list is a fantastic place to start.