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How to Get People to Really Listen to You

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There’s no magic 5 step formula. That might not be what you want to hear right now but trust me in the long run it’s easier to accept that life is nuanced and has many grey areas. Just like in foreign languages, you need to learn the rules but there are always exceptions that are open to interpretation.

I grew up with a sense of not being heard without really ever realising it. Sure, people understood me when we were talking about where I had been or what I had been up to but I struggled to understand why people often misunderstood me or why they couldn’t comprehend the thought process behind some of my decisions. I would frequently get frustrated and worked up when someone unintentionally misunderstood what I said or what my intentions were.

Over the years there has been a layer of maturing and life experience that has gone into my development. Changing my environments and the people in them has also had an effect as it has given me access to different types of people with different perspectives. However, I have also made intentional adjustments that have helped peel back the curtain and reveal the wizard who was at play in my life.

You see, I wasn’t aware of the most basic of things when it came to communication. What is a cognitive bias? When I was really struggling I didn’t even know the definition of this word never to mind to see it at play in my everyday life. Judgements? Well doesn’t everyone have the same sense of what is right and wrong and how we should be living our lives? Emotions? Isn’t a guy supposed to be stoic and suck it up when he feels in any way sad or insecure?

Amazingly enough, I lived my life in this mindset for a long time. Add a layer of human insecurity and it was little wonder why I never felt heard. I didn’t even feel connected to myself.

Awareness of my issues was the first step and the next major insight came in the form of the inversion principle. My goal was to feel heard and understood by other people, especially people I loved. I always had this goal in my life, even though it was mainly operating at a subconscious level, and it never made a difference. If anything it made things worse when I was confronted with a reality where I didn’t feel heard by other people.

So I did like I often do when met with a part of reality that has me completed stumped. I inversed my goal. Instead of wanting to feel heard by other people I decided that I wanted to understand other people. In order to understand other people I understood that I had to make an intentional effort to listen more to them.

So that’s what I did and it has helped me to become a more effective communicator. I now have a podcast where I speak to people from all walks of life and I learned to write which led me to publish my first book. As I listened more to other people I realised that they are as messed up as I am and it made me feel a little more connected and less intimated by them.

Over time I have felt that this has been reciprocated. I’m not always waiting for my turn to speak these days I can get a better sense of the person in front of me, whether we have a connection and whether we have things in common.

As a polymath, my perspective is wide and general but when it comes to communication I have realised that narrowing my focus on becoming a better listener has opened career doors and doors on friendships that I didn’t think would ever open for me. I have learned that in the corporate world that saying less and listening more has made my life much more enjoyable and a hell of a lot less psychologically painful.

You can listen to the full episode Lost in Translation here.

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Denis Murphy
Denis is an author, linguist, software engineer and podcaster from Ireland. At heart he is a polymath. His many interests range from foreign languages to computer programming. He speaks 4 languages including French and he is currently learning Japanese. On his podcast, The Happy Mindset, he helps fellow polymaths to make sense of their many interests through solo episodes and conversations that explore human psychology, creative writing and what it means to lead a happy and fulfilling life. He discovered his love for creative writing after some mental health issues he experienced in his early 20’s. His first book was published at the end of 2019 and is called Taking my Life Back.

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