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Do people have trouble hearing you?

posted 6 Dec 2013, 19:11 by Suzi Wallis   [ updated 17 Jul 2017, 17:01 ]
Do you have the experience of people not hearing you well, or appearing disconnected when you speak to them? It could be because you are coming across as authoritarian, condescending, patronising or superior. This can happen quite unintentionally and create a distance between you and your audiences (of one or more).

Things that can give people the impressions above include:
  • Speaking in a loud voice that is inappropriate for the setting
  • Speaking over the top of others
  • Having a sarcastic tone in your voice
  • Using complicated words and phrases that others may not understand
  • Being forceful in your phrases, rather than tentative
  • Using 'should', 'must', 'but', 'I know', 'look...'
You may be an expert on a particular subject, or a number of subjects. You can still express your opinions in a gentle, respectful way without coming across as superior. Even if you know the answer (or feel driven to correct some 'wrong' information), you can do this tentatively and curiously. This will give the impression that you are humble and a team player. Words like the following will help to create a respectful/inclusive impression:
  • I think it could be...
  • That might be...
  • I read somewhere that...
  • I think...what do you think?
What I mention above can be very subtle and you may be unaware that your audience perceives you as patronising or superior. Notice the non-verbal cues in others like looking away, being forceful in their response (it could mean they're feeling defensive or judged), shutting down, changing the subject, rolling their eyes (even subtly), looking at other members of the group in a particular way. 

Be an observer of your own behaviour, make incremental changes where you can, and you may find that people seek you out more than before.

Suzi Wallis | Dec 2013