This is how to speak so that people want to listen

How to speak so that people will listen

There is nothing more frustrating and alienating than trying your best to be heard, only for people to ignore you.

We’ve all been there. We’ve all wanted to convince someone: I am perfect for this job, pick me. My idea will work, trust me. I love you, give me a chance.

Yet many of us experience moments when the words we worked so hard to say fall on deaf ears. The rejection hurts.

So how can we change that? How do you ensure you get heard?

Sound expert Julian Treasure’s 10-minute TED Talk breaks down what he believes exactly what to do to speak so that people will listen.

He shares the “HAIL approach”: 4 simple and effective tools to become someone who people will want to listen to.

They are:

1. Honesty

Treasure’s first advice is to be honest. Be true to what you say. Be clear and straight.

Everything is so much easier when you’re honest. Everybody knows this, yet we are still intent on telling our white lies.

We want to look better. We don’t want others to think badly of us and we want to impress them.

But people are actually more perceptive than you think. They know you are lying, and they immediately dismiss what you’re saying as trash.

If you want to start having genuine conversations with people who actually listen to what you say, you need to practice honesty first.

2. Authenticity

Next, Treasure encourages you to be yourself.

Because first, you need to be truthful. Secondly, you need to ‘stand on your own truth.’

Authenticity means staying true to who you are, what you do, and who you’re speaking to.

I’ve always believed that authentic people radiate energy that others are naturally attracted to. It’s because they are so comfortably at home with themselves.

But I also think it’s because authentic people are more engaged, committed, and genuine in how they talk and what they do.

It has everything to do with trust. When someone actually practices what they preach, you can immediately trust them and value what they have to say.

3. Integrity

Treasure then advises, “Be your word. Do what you say. Be someone you can trust.”

Now that you are honest and authentic, it’s time to pair it with action.

It’s about embodying your truth.

According to CEO and author Shelley Baur, integrity-based communication comes down to 3 things:

  • Words, tone of voice, body language
  • Attitude, energy, and emotional intelligence you bring to every conversation, formal or informal.
  • It’s the way we show up, 100%

Simply, integrity in communication means proving what you say with deeds. It’s more than honesty. It’s walking the talk.

4. Love

Lastly, Treasure wants you to love. 

And he doesn’t mean romantic love. He means genuinely wishing others well.

He explains:

First of all, I think absolute honesty may not be what we want. I mean, my goodness, you look ugly this morning. Perhaps that’s not necessary. Tempered with love, of course, honesty is a great thing. But also, if you’re really wishing somebody well, it’s very hard to judge them at the same time. I’m not even sure you can do those two things simultaneously. So hail.

Because yes, honesty is great. But raw honesty is not always the best thing to contribute to the conversation.

However, if you pair with kindness and love, it means you care. It means you’re valuing someone.

With love, you never get it wrong.


The value of talking with intention

Before we get on to the main topic, let’s talk about the one thing that will make an immediate difference in the way you speak:


It’s my favorite word. It’s the word I try to live by in all the things I do.

Intention is the ‘thought that shapes reality.’ It is about doing things with a purpose.

Simply put: It’s the meaning behind what you do.

How is this relevant in speaking?

Most likely, people don’t listen to you because you’re not making your intentions clear. What’s worse, is if you don’t even have an intention behind what you say.

For me, talking with intention enables you to have more worthy things to say. It doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with being more interesting or more charming.

It’s about saying things that are worth saying. It’s about offering something valuable to the conversation.

When you have intention, you’re not afraid of silence, you’re not afraid to ask, and you’re not afraid to speak your mind.

Conversations with people are suddenly more meaningful. People will listen to you, not because you demand it, but because they’re genuinely interested in what you have to say.

Try to incorporate this little habit in your conversations and you will feel people begin to really hear what you have to say.

How to speak so that people will listen

7 reasons why people don’t listen to you

Now let’s move on to the bad habits of an ineffective speaker. These are the things you may unwittingly do that stops people from giving your words a chance.

It’s important to realize that we’re all guilty of these conversation mishaps. The fact that you genuinely want to learn how to speak more effectively is already a change towards the positive.

So what are you doing wrong?

It’s actually not what you’re saying but how you act and say things that prevent people from taking you seriously.

Here are 7 bad habits you need to shake off if you want to start being heard:

1. You don’t listen

This one is easily obvious.

Do you only talk about yourself all the time and not allowing people to have their say? Then you’re not having conversations, you’re doing a monologue.

A conversation is a two-way street. You give and you take.

Sadly, that’s not the case for most of us.

We usually treat conversations like a competitive sport. We think we’re winning if we have more things to say, or when we have the cleverest or funniest remark.

But it is in listening that we actually win.

The law of supply and demand applies here: if you always offer your thoughts and opinions, people no longer see any value in them.

But if you offer your opinions sparingly and speaking only when necessary, your words suddenly have more weight.

More importantly, the person you’re talking to will feel validated and understood, which will make them more inclined to listen to what you have to say.

2. You gossip a lot

We all gossip, it’s true. And even though most of us deny it, we all love juicy gossip.

You’ll be surprised by the reason why:

It’s because our brains are biologically built for gossiping.

Evolutionary biologists claim that in prehistoric times, human survival depended on consistent information sharing. We had to know who was capable of hunting, who tanned the best hides, and who could be trusted.

In short: it’s in our DNA. We just can’t help it. So the usual gossip is completely normal.

Gossip only becomes problematic when it becomes malicious and intent on making others look and feel bad.

What’s worse, constant malicious gossip makes you look bad. It makes you unreliable, which is likely why no one likes listening to you.

As they say, what you say about others says a lot more about you than it does about them.

3. You’re judgmental

Studies show that we spend as little as 0.1 seconds to judge a person’s character.

That’s right. We literally judge people in a blink of an eye.

But that doesn’t mean you should voice out your judgments as fast as you come up with them.

No one likes to be in the presence of a highly-judgmental person, much less listen to them. Sure, it might boost your ego to prove how much better you are compared to everyone else, but judgment puts people on guard.

If you want to be heard, and be valued by what you say, at least keep your opinions to yourself.

4. You’re negative

It’s okay to want to vent and rant about a bad day. You’re not expected to always be positive.

But if complaining and whining are what you constantly do in every conversation you are in, it gets old really fast.

No one likes talking to a party-pooper.

But there’s more:

Did you know that complaining is actually very bad for your health? Researchers found that when you complain, your brain releases stress hormones that damage neural connections, decreasing overall brain function.

What’s worse, negative people endanger the health and well-being of others. Your negativity is basically contagious and you unwittingly affect the thoughts and self-esteem of people close to you.

If this is you, there’s no wonder people dismiss you immediately. Try to change your negative mindset and people are likely to be more interested in the things you say.

5. You confuse your opinions for facts

It’s okay to be passionate about your ideas and opinions. In fact, confidently sharing your thoughts and perceptions can be interesting to other people.

But don’t ever confuse your opinions for facts. Don’t push your opinions so aggressively to others. Your opinions are yours. Your perception of reality is valid, but it doesn’t mean it’s the same for everyone.

Saying “I’m entitled to my own opinion” is just an excuse to say whatever you want without thinking how the other person feels. This is when healthy and productive communication stops. And it just creates unnecessary conflict.

The world is already polarized by opposing ideas. If we want to effectively communicate with others, we need to be open and logical with our own opinions as well as of others’.

6. You’re always interrupting others

We’re all actually guilty of interrupting people when it’s a heated or passionate conversation. We want so badly to be heard, that we’re impatient to get our turn.

But constantly interrupting others not only makes you look bad, it makes people feel bad too.

We’ve all talked to people who keep cutting us off mid-sentence. And you know how annoying and offensive it feels.

Constantly interrupting people makes them feel devalued and uninteresting. They will immediately stop listening to you and may even walk away.

You can’t expect others to respect you if you don’t show any respect towards them.

7. You’re not confident

Could it be that subconsciously, you don’t really want to be heard? It’s easy for people to dismiss someone who looks like they don’t want to participate.

Perhaps you’re not confident with your own opinions or you don’t know how to assert yourself. You’re anxious about speaking and this comes out in your body language.

Maybe you’re covering your mouth a lot, crossing your arms, or speaking in a tiny voice.

It’s perfectly normal. We’re not all natural social butterflies.

But it’s something you can actually get better at. You can grow your confidence and be better at conversation.

Just keep pushing yourself and keep talking to people. Soon, your confidence will grow. Work on yourself from the inside out. Once you emit a confident aura, people will start looking taking a closer look at you.

5 steps to becoming a better communicator

We’ve talked about intention, the bad habits you need to stop, and the foundations of good communication. I believe those are the only tools you need to become someone people genuinely listen to.

But let’s end this article with even more constructive advice.

You can have the right mindset. You can remember what not to do.

But are there things you can actively do while conversing with someone?

Yes! And I’ve gathered what I believe are 5 simple and actionable things you can do to communicate better:

1. Active listening

We’ve talked about the importance of listening in a conversation.

But listening is only a part of it. It’s what you do with what you hear that makes a big difference.

This is called active listening.

Active listening involves participating in a conversation—taking turns in speaking and listening, and establishing rapport with the people you’re talking to.

Some features of active listening are:

  • being neutral and nonjudgmental
  • patience—you don’t need to fill every silence
  • showing you’re listening by verbal and nonverbal cues (nodding, smiling, saying yes)
  • asking questions
  • reflecting back on what is said
  • asking for clarifications, if necessary
  • summarizing the exchange

It might be a lot to take in. But it’s actually quite simple once you digest it.

Being an active listener simply means you listen, you focus on what is being said, and you are constructive about the exchange.

In short: Just be present 100% and you’ll do great!

2. Encourage people to talk about themselves

Who doesn’t like talking about themselves? That’s you, me, and everybody else.

In fact, that is exactly the reason why we’re ineffective communicators. All we do is talk about ourselves.

On average, we spend 60% of conversations talking about ourselves. On social media, however, that number jumps to 80%.


Neuroscience says because it feels good.

We are constantly hungry to talk about ourselves because we get a biochemical buzz from the self-disclosure.

And while it’s bad for you to talk about yourself all the time, you can use that fact to engage people.

So I want you to try one thing:

Let people talk about themselves, too.

It will make them feel good and they will be engaged with you more.

3. Use a person’s name more often

There’s a simple and effective way to reel a person in when conversing with them:

Use their names.

I confess I am one of those people who have a hard time remembering people’s names. When I talk with people I just met, I go out of my way to avoid revealing I’d forgotten their names.


But you’d be surprised to know the simple power of remembering and using a person’s name.

One research suggests that people will like you better when you remember their name. For example, if you’re selling something, they’re more likely to buy from you. Or they’ll be more willing to help if you’re asking it.

When we remember someone’s name and include it when we speak to them, it makes them feel valued. You took the effort of getting to know them, and that could go a long way when communicating with them.

4. Make them feel important

It’s quite obvious that all of the tips so far point to one crucial thing:

Making people feel important.

You’ll notice that the most charming and effective communicators are the ones who put people at ease. They are the ones people relate to because they’re so good at making you feel heard.

If you make them feel validated, they’re more interested in what you have to say.

So how do you do exactly that?

Renowned social psychologist Robert Cialdini has two tips:

4a. Give out honest compliments.

There’s a fine line between giving genuine compliments to someone and sucking up to them. Don’t compliment too much and don’t sugar it up. That only makes you look like you’re trying too hard.

Instead, give positive and honest compliments, no matter how small they are. It breaks the ice and puts the other person at ease.

4b. Ask for their advice.

It might be something as simple as asking for restaurant recommendations, but asking for their advice sends a very good message.

It says you respect this person’s opinion and you’re ready to be vulnerable with them. You do this one simple thing and suddenly they look at you more differently. It’s also a great ice-breaker and conversation starter.

5. Focus on your similarities

The simple truth is, we like people who are like us. And there’s a lot of research to back this up.

The reasons why are a little bit complex. But let’s focus on the one important reason when it comes to communication.

It’s perceived similarity.

When we talk to someone, we listen more to them if we think they are a lot like us. On the other hand, we tend not to listen to someone who appears to be different from us.

This is why when talking to people, you should focus on the similarities you have with them. Find the common things you enjoy and use this to establish rapport. It will be an interesting conversation for you both, and you don’t have to worry about not being heard.


Communicating should be ideally easy. How hard can it be to have people listen to what you say?

We speak, and everything else should naturally follow.

But we all know it’s a little more complicated than that.

In the end, all we want to do is to connect with others effectively. And we can ‘t do that if we have a hard time convincing people to listen.

Thankfully, you don’t have to go around talking to the wind anymore. With the tips above, you can start having better conversations from now on.

Just remember: have intention, be clear and authentic, and be genuinely interested in what other people have to say.

Picture of Genefe Navilon

Genefe Navilon

Genefe Navilon is a writer, poet, and blogger. She graduated with a degree in Mass Communications at the University of San Jose Recoletos. Her poetry blog, Letters To The Sea, currently has 18,000 followers. Her work has been published in different websites and poetry book anthologies. She divides her time between traveling, writing, and working on her debut poetry book.

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