There are so many shifts happening in communication. Some of us are going back to in-person. Some are still working from home. We still have so many virtual meetings. But no matter which way you are communicating, you may be getting the sense that you are not being heard. Or worse, you suggest or express an idea and someone else says the exact same thing and takes the credit.
I have worked with several clients who complain that they feel they are not being heard. Or that despite being heard they must convey the same message repeatedly, but their suggestions are not accepted (or embraced). In cases like these, the issue is in the way they are communicating—not the message itself.
Here are three common reasons your message is not being heard.
Your pace is too rapid
Think of a pitching machine (for baseball, not a salesman). If the machine throws too many balls too fast you will not be able to bat any of the balls. But if the machine throws one at a time there is a better chance that the ball will be hit. The same goes for your communication.
If you are speaking at a rapid pace and introducing too many ideas at one time none of your ideas will land in your audience. You need to give your audience time to digest what you are saying and take them from idea to idea rather than “throwing all the balls” at once.
One way to make sure you are landing your points is to ask yourself the question, “Did that just land?” Take it one idea at a time. Pause after every idea to be sure it landed.
Another way to make sure your ideas land is to be sure to have a summary. This does not need to be like an English class paragraph where you have to go through everything you just said. It needs to be one sentence. For example, if you are explaining a new product, your summary is simple: “These are the features of the new product.” This gives a cue to your audience that you are finished, and now they have space to absorb what you are saying.
Your gestures are clouding your message
It is important to gesture in a way that is authentic to you. There are no hard rules about gesturing, however, if your gestures are all over the place and convey too much energy you will turn off your audience.
In the age of TikTok and live streaming videos, this is the greatest sin. When someone is delivering an important message and you cannot hear a word they are saying because their gestures are too distracting. Their gestures become like TV static or a poor internet connection.
It is fine to have gestures that convey energy every now and then—but when this is overused you lose your voice.
One way to avoid this is to establish a neutral position. An example of a neutral position (when seated) is hands on your lap, your desk, or resting on the arms of the chair. If you are standing place your hands on the podium or by your sides. Once you have finished one idea and transition to a new one, go back to a neutral position. This allows your audience to flow from one idea to the next with you as opposed to getting lost in the energy storm of gestures.
You don’t have built-in redundancy
The way we write and the way we speak are entirely different. If you do not have built-in redundancy you will not get your point across—especially in a virtual setting where people are more likely to be distracted.
You must pepper your communication by reintroducing the topic you are speaking about. A simple way to do this? If you find yourself speaking and notice you are getting in the weeds, just ask yourself: “What am I talking about?” Oh, yes, I am speaking about updates for 2021. This is where you reintroduce the topic, for example: “One other update for 2021 is…” and voila you are back on track and your audience will be relieved because they may have lost the thread of the idea as well.
So many good ideas go unheard because of unclear messaging. You’ve done the work. You are in the room, at the table. Now is the time to land your message with clarity, brevity, and ease.
Vanessa Wasche is the owner and founder of On Point Speaking.