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  • Alison Seddon

3 Step Approach to Being Heard


We have something to say. Something important to say. But somehow it

just doesn’t land. Maybe we do say what we need to say to the other

person, but they don’t listen. Maybe we lose track of what we are saying

in the middle of saying it and the conversation goes on a completely

different tack. And maybe we know what we want to say but just can’t

find a way to start.

Any of these resonate with you?

I’d like to share with you a three step approach that will likely have the

other person ready to hear what you have to say.

You might well be familiar with the ideas below but the point here is to

have a systematic approach. Being haphazard when the conversation or

the relationship is difficult, or the stakes are high won’t help you land your

all important message.


STEP ONE: PREPARE

This is the most important step of all and it takes place before you are

even with the person you want to speak to. You need to take the time to

think through what you are going to say.

We are familiar with those conversations we have in the middle of the

night, ruminating over and over again about what we want to say; or

more precisely what we think the other person deserves to hear! Whilst

these thoughts are part of human nature and goodness knows I have

indulged in them myself, preparing your thoughts for an important

conversation is quite different.

Give yourself some time and some space where you can think through

what is going on for you. It’s well known that physical movement aids

thinking so if you can, put your shoes on and go for a walk. This really

helps me, but if I’m busy with domestic chores I might also talk it through

(yes, out loud!) while I do the washing up or the ironing.

The questions you are going to ask yourself here are:

● What am I feeling?

● Where does this feeling come from?

● What is the most important issue here?

● What do I want from the other person?

I have another post planned that can walk you through this process in

more detail. Reflective practice is a really good way of getting to the heart

of what is going on for you when when you are in the midst of

uncomfortable feelings. But for now, thinking through these questions will

help you get your thinking in order.

As you think about the situation, you will probably find there are a

number of things you want to say. JUST CHOOSE ONE. You could go for

the easiest one, but it’s more fruitful to go for the one that makes you

feel nervous! That’s a sign that it is important to you. If you layer point

after point the other person is likely to feel overwhelmed, and you are far

more likely to lose your way.

Another important part of this process is to avoid blaming the other. Just

work out how you feel, where those feelings come from, and what you

want from the other person. That isn’t to say that you can’t express anger

or frustration. Just do what you can to avoid blame as this is a surefire

way of closing the other person’s ears before you even start.

Not sure of the difference between sharing your frustration and blaming

someone else? A quick rule of thumb is to check how much you are

framing what you want to say in terms of your own experience or in

terms of the other’s behaviour. So, rather than ‘Why did you make that

that decision without consulting me? You only think about yourself.’ you

might say ‘It’s so frustrating when I’m left out of decisions that have an

impact on me. I feel undervalued.’

Once you have chosen the one point you want to say, you can phrase it in

your head without getting stuck into blaming, and you know what you

want from the other person, you are ready for the next step.


STEP TWO: SET THE SCENE

Create the right moment and choose the right space!

I’m sure you know this one but it’s amazing how often we forget. I can

still broach an important topic with my partner when she is distracted by

work, the children are playing in the background and the telly is on, so it

is worth a reminder. Make sure you are somewhere:

● Quiet enough

● Private enough

● Comfortable

I say quiet and private enough as the requirement will vary depending on

the context. So for example if I wanted to have a conversation with one

of my senior colleagues I would email to arrange a zoom meeting at a

mutually convenient time. If I wanted to say something to my teenage

son I would set up the opportunity for us to be doing an activity or a

chore together so we could talk together in a relaxed way without the

tension and formality of being face to face. The first option is more

structured and timebound. I know I’ll be talking to my colleague at 10:30

on Wednesday. With my son, though, I will have in mind that I need to

find the opportunity as it arises and that will mean holding the

conversation in mind for a day or so.

So you are face-to-face, earpiece to earpiece, or side by side with the

other person. Now what?

This is the moment where we often get stuck. Should you launch right in?

Or maybe talk about the weather for a bit? Perhaps it would be good to

ask them how their day is going? Well, asking about family or work

projects or referencing something in the news is a matter of cultural

preference and personal taste. It’s definitely important to establish an

atmosphere of warmth and goodwill and sometimes all you need for that

is a smile. But whilst it is polite and helpful to spend time connecting, at

some point you have to transition into the topic at hand. And when you

want to be heard Step 3 is really important.


STEP 3: SHARE YOUR PURPOSE

This is where your state your intention for the conversation and give

some context. It might sound something like this:

‘John, I want to talk to you about something I found in your room last

week.’

‘Sarah, I have been feeling anxious about the project deadline recently

and I’d really like to talk to you about it.’

‘Darling, we’ve been talking a lot recently about all the things we would

like to do together in the future and how well suited we are for each

other, and so... there’s something I really want to ask you!’

A couple of things to notice here. One is the use of the name (or

endearment for the hopeful individual in example 3!). This can be a really

effective way of signalling that you want to shift the conversation into a

different gear. If the other person has been talking without giving you any

airspace, gently using their name can also stop the flow of words without

seeming rude.

Notice also that the context is really,really brief. This is your headline,

after all. Once you have said it, STOP TALKING until the other person has

given you their full attention. Then you can share the point you want to

make.

Just to be clear, I’m not suggesting that you go through these steps and

say your piece and leave, like some kind of mic drop. That only works in

TV shows. Saying what you want to say so that the other person can hear

it is the start of a longer conversation.

Drop me a line below if you have any questions. And if you try it out, I’d

love to hear how it went!


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© 2019 by alison seddon