Some people, it seems, could command attention while reciting a list of fertilizer chemicals; others are ignored no matter what they have to say. "There's a whole skill set involved in being heard," says John Gray, PhD, author of Why Mars and Venus Collide. It all starts with noticing how others are reacting to you. A few talking points:
1. When you're trying to be helpful, do others avoid making eye contact with you? Do they interrupt or show little interest in your point of view? You may be coming across as a know-it-all, or your advice could sound like criticism, Gray says. Eventually people may stop listening to your ideas altogether. Next time you have a suggestion, try asking, "Would you like to know what I think?" Or "I have a different perspective—would you like to hear it?"
2. While you're talking, do people check their BlackBerries or make you feel like you're wasting their time? Tony Alessandra, PhD, author of Charisma: Seven Keys to Developing the Magnetism that Leads to Success, says you may be losing your audience due to a discrepancy in communication styles. "Some people respond to emotion and storytelling, while others need you to get to the point," he explains. Note how fast the other person speaks and try to match his speed: If you talk too slowly to a fast-paced communicator, his mind may wander; if you talk too rapidly to a slower-paced person, he may feel flustered and tune out.
3. Do friends drift off while you're pouring your heart out? According to Gray, many women like to commiserate—talking about problems not in order to fix them but simply to share them as a way to reduce stress. But some people—particularly men—hear such talk as a burdensome request for help. "Let your friend or coworker know that you just want to vent for a few minutes about what's going on," Gray advises, "and tell him that he doesn't have to say or do anything about it. That releases him from assuming that he must offer a solution."
4. No matter what, you can't go wrong by showing interest in what other people say and making them feel important. In other words, the better you listen, the more you'll be listened to.
Next: Need more help? Here's more advice on how to speak up