Do you ever feel like you’re speaking but no one is listening?

Maybe you were leading a team meeting where everyone seemed distracted. Maybe it was a virtual meeting and you’re not sure some people with cameras off are even present.

We all want people to listen when we’re speaking. And if we’re leading a meeting, it’s our job to get them listening.

So what can we do?

#1: Pause and notice

Lack of connection is uncomfortable, especially when we’re the one speaking. Often we ignore the discomfort, hoping it will go away, or we just don’t know what else to do.

But the first step to changing the situation is to pay attention to it.

Pause and notice what you’re feeling. You can even call it out. If you focus on yourself, then there’s no need for a defensive response.

You could say, “I’m just going to stop for a moment. We’ve all got a lot we’re juggling right now, and I’m just feeling like we (or I) need to take a moment to get present.” 

Now that you have their attention, what next?

#2: Tell a story

Stories have the power to hold people’s attention because they want to know how they will end.  And research shows a story can actually cause the brain of the listener to synchronize with the brain of the storyteller, creating feelings of connection.

Scientists believe that the brain seems to be doing two things when a story is being told: (1) trying to understand the information being shared; and (2) trying to predict or imagine what will happen next, including trying to decipher another person’s motives. 

The best stories will keep the listener engaged by including specific details that make them more alive, and by eliciting emotion. Emotions, which activate the limbic area of the brain, cause the brain to pay greater attention to something. They also create more neural connections for whatever is being shared.

Recent research also suggests that telling a happy story elicits greater feelings of connection with the speaker and better recall. In this study, the increased closeness was linked to synchrony in the brain activity of the speaker and listener in areas related to emotional processing and theory of mind.

Pause, plan and practice

Stories can synchronize brains and improve connections between speaker and listeners. Why not use them to engage and connect?

Before your next meeting, what’s a good story you can tell? 

Keep pausing to notice whether your listeners are with you. Plan to a good story in advance. 

You can practice sharing it below in the comments. Or shoot me an email. I will read it.

I love a good story.

Photo by Mapbox on Unsplash