Not Feeling You Are Heard
Sometimes we feel we are not being heard. Sometimes that feeling is from an accurate assessment of other people’s behavior and sometimes it is just us. It may be because of a previous emotional experience and we carry that emotion forward. We might not feel heard because in our previous experience we created the belief that we are not heard and still live within that belief paradigm. The belief paradigm creates the same experience and emotion as not being heard even though people are really listening to us.
Then there is the possibility that people are just not hearing or understanding what we say. When people don’t pay attention we can sense a lack of connection. In this third scenario there may or not be things we can do about it. Sometimes the thinking in a listener’s head is so busy and loud that you are interrupted. Or a listener’s thoughts are so strong that they can’t hear you over their own thinking. In this situation it is certainly not about you and so there is no need to take this personally. You just realize that the voices in their head drown out everyone they are attempting to listen to. The solution to this issue might be that you gently ask the person if they understood what you said. If they say they did, you might then ask them to explain it back so you can confirm their understanding and you are on the same page. Gently getting their attention can help. Criticizing them won’t.
When it isn’t the listener that is the issue there are steps you can take to help yourself be heard. Often times there are compensating strategies you have developed that are interfering with people hearing you. The very methods we have employed to make people hear us actually cause them to tune us out. These approaches we begin to develop as a child might have worked when we were younger but as adults they have the opposite effect. Yet, as adults we continue to unconsciously use them, or even over use them to our own detriment.
Ways we overcompensate in our communication to try and be heard:
- We talk fast because we are afraid that we will be interrupted. We rush to get our words out before someone cuts us off. This adds tension to our voice.
- We speak loudly to command attention. We amplify our voice in an effort to dominate the conversation and keep others from saying anything that would take attention away from us. We are more likely to notice this in others and not in our self.
- We don’t speak at all. We decide that we won’t be heard so we resign ourselves to not bothering to say anything at all. This way we avoid the experience of rejection we feel when our expressions are not acknowledged. The unconscious mind is likely running a kind of rejection movie and produces the same rejection experience and emotions anyways.
- We repeat our selves. Because we live in a bubble world of not being heard, even after saying something, we feel that our words were not heard and so we say it again, and maybe even a third or fourth time.
- We intentionally talk softly so others have to pay extra close attention in order to hear us. Any effort to get others to pay attention we act different which include whispering or mumbling. The result is that we feel we are getting close attention from people so deem that this approach is working. People might even ask us to repeat what we said and that attention helps compensate for the feeling of not being heard. However, other people will find it peculiar and their attention on your behavior may distract them from your point.
What is the effect of repeating ourselves, talking loudly, and or quickly? To the listener it is an unpleasant experience. Our words come across rushed, loud, and repetitive and the emotional tone of our speech is one of tension, perhaps, desperation, fear, anxiety, or resentment. This emotional tone, for example resentment, is from the reaction to the assumption that we are not being heard, even as we control the verbal space. We may not be consciously saying these things, but the unconscious tone and emotion of our beliefs will be felt at some level. The listener feels these emotions of tension in our words and will want to withdraw from our unpleasant emotions.
The result of all of these compensating strategies is that people tune us out. Ironically, these artificial efforts we make to be listened to cause people to not want to listen to us. This reinforces the feeling and belief we started with. The closed loop of this dynamic causes us to try harder at the compensating strategies that are not working and people tune us out more strongly.
Are we likely to notice if we employ these compensating strategies in our speaking? Not likely. Putting our attention on our own words, cadence, volume, and repetition is not something we commonly do with our attention. We are more likely to notice how others speak. So becoming aware of our own speech patterns may be an important step to improving our conversation connection.
Deeper Layers of Beliefs
Let’s say we get rid of these compensating strategies that are ineffective efforts to make ourselves heard. And we get rid of the “taking it personally” reaction when someone doesn’t have the capability to focus their attention on what we are saying. What we might be left with at that point is still a feeling of not being heard, except now there doesn’t seem to be a reason for it.
The solution path is that we have to look deeper into our thoughts, belief systems, and emotions. We begin at the very basics to inventory the whole situation and see what we find. We begin with the thoughts we have about what is happening and scrutinize everything.
“I don’t feel that I am being heard.”
For starters, this isn’t very clear. “Being heard,” is a description of another person’s behavior. “Not being heard” is far removed from describing our own feelings and emotions. These are two different things and the clear articulation of this will help. It might seem to us, or we might perceive they are not listening which is an observation or assumption of the other person’s behavior. Our feelings would be described by words like, unworthy, hurt, frustrated. A more accurate statement might be, “You seem to me to be paying attention to something else and I am having some emotional reactions to what I am perceiving.”
To really understand the issue we need to describe a feeling, or emotion we are having as separate from their behavior. Unworthiness or worthlessness is more accurate as it describes what we might be feeling. Unimportant might be close, but it is still related to someone else’s opinion of us. The important step is to clarify the separation between their behavior and our emotion. Too often we merge the two in language and create misunderstanding.
Understanding Emotional Responses
Let’s say that an admirer brings a woman, Mary, flowers. If Mary likes the admirer she is going to have wonderful feelings about this. However, if Mary doesn’t like the admirer, she is going to have a completely different reaction. She doesn’t want flowers from a guy she doesn’t like. Mary is likely to go into anxiety as to how to get rid of him in a way that doesn’t hurt his feelings and so Mary doesn’t look mean or unkind. It’s an uncomfortable situation for Mary to get flowers from someone she doesn’t like. I use this example to show how getting flowers produces two different emotional reactions depending on which beliefs become active. Getting flowers doesn’t directly produce emotions. The emotions are different in the two scenarios because Mary’s beliefs interpret the scenarios differently, and responds with emotions corresponding to each interpretation.
I’ve come to find that if someone is not listening to me that I relax. I realize they are not digesting what I am saying and so I let them do all the talking and chill out. What does your mind interpret when it seems others aren’t listening to you? What reactionary emotions are created and what are the beliefs that correspond to these emotions?
Do we believe that we are stupid, worthless, unimportant or rejected somehow? Are we offended and hurt? These emotions are produced when our belief system is triggered. The point here is that we feel the emotions we feel not because someone didn’t do something. We feel these emotions because our belief system was activated to make these interpretations and produced emotions congruent with these beliefs. In cases like these, unpleasant emotions will correspond to negative or painful beliefs about ourself. The exploration of these triggered responses is best explored by writing them out and seeing what shows up on the page.
When we don’t feel heard there may be multiple layers contributing to this feeling. It may be that others are busy in their mind that they are unable to listen and connect with us. Not feeling heard might in part be due to our extra efforts at compensating strategies which alienate people and tempt them to tune us out. They sense our tension, and don’t feel a desire to connect to an expression that lacks authenticity. And, maybe we are carrying beliefs of our past into a conversation and projecting emotions or historical interpretations into the present moment. These projected beliefs can create the experience of not feeling heard, even when people are really listening.
To really find out which of these factors or others are contributing to the experience of not connecting with others requires some exploration. Simply pointing the finger at someone else for their lack of listening is not enough. What is needed is to take some responsibility and get curious. Taking responsibility means that we will consider that we are playing a part in our communication dance with others. The curious part is for exploring the layers of our emotions, communication style, and beliefs that are contributing to our own experience. In that self reflection process we become more aware of what was previously unconscious to us and make changes at a depth that will make a difference.
The practical approach that I suggest for this curious approach of exploring beliefs, emotions, and making changes is to sign up and do the free sessions of the Self Mastery course. If you find they are helpful you can continue with the rest of the course or find another approach that accomplishes the same thing.