Here’s another great question I received recently from a reader. It’s one that I know many people struggle with, so I thought I’d answer it in today’s installment of my “Reader Q&A Series”…
READER QUESTION #3
“I practiced speaking up this week, but I felt like no one heard me, because nothing changed. I don’t know how to get everyone else to hear me and respect me. They all still did whatever they wanted regardless of what I said. Now I feel as helpless as I did before. Weren’t things supposed to be better because I spoke up and said what I wanted?”
ANSWER to READER QUESTION #3
Another great question…and my answer may just surprise you! I know it surprises clients and others who ask me similar questions, until they have a chance to think it through and actually apply it in their lives.
If you’ve guessed (maybe since this is still July, and you’re aware of our theme for this month…) that the answer has something to do with beliefs, you’re right!
The reader is describing an experience many people can relate to – especially people who tend to take on a supportive, giving role in their family, community or work situation. Because they naturally defer to the needs of others, their “speaking up muscle” isn’t as well developed as that of people who are more assertive and proactive about getting what they want first, and worrying about others later.
So the first clue to understanding how beliefs factor into answering this reader’s question lies in the conclusion that “speaking up didn’t work,” since the others in the situation don’t seem to have changed their behavior. It assumes that whatever words were chosen to communicate the reader’s desired outcomes were well-designed to get people’s attention.
But what if the reader, not being a naturally assertive person, just hasn’t developed the vocabulary yet that would get the audience’s attention? Words are interpreted differently by different people, and if someone believes that asking for what they want would be “selfish” or “demanding” they’re probably going to use gentler, less assertive words that reflect their non-assertive nature. To do otherwise, right off the bat, would feel uncomfortable and foreign to them. So this first attempt may just have lacked the language of assertion that would easily get the audience’s attention and respect.
The intended audience may have heard in the request words that to them imply “Even though I’m asking this, in reality I’ll be willing to defer to whatever you want.” If that’s what they hear, instead of words that in their language “stakes a claim” and requires a response from them, they will behave accordingly!
So my recommendation to the reader is to identify any limiting beliefs about whether or not they have a right, or permission, to make a demand. Because the idea of making a “demand” typically feels too strong, too “inconsiderate” of others and therefore “selfish” for less assertive people, this is often a great test for uncovering such beliefs.
7 Essential Steps to Being Heard
If you find yourself in a similar situation, and discover that you have some of these limiting beliefs lurking in the background, I recommend the following seven steps for getting them out of the way to achieve your desired outcome:
- Decide that you’re not going to give up until you get what you want and need!
- Practice feeling “entitled” to have what you are asking for! This means doing internal work to banish self-limiting beliefs and install new ones. There are several tools in previous articles on this blog that can help accomplish that. Get to where you can feel it in your body that you deserve what you want.
- Identify the words used in the original communication, and notice if they are “asking” words or “telling” words; do they sound more like you were saying “it would be nice if this could happen” or “here is what I need to happen”? Even when you’re making a request, using certain words might unintentionally convey to people that you don’t really mean it if it’s not convenient for them!
- Find out what alternative words someone who is more assertive might use. Because they usually have a belief that they deserve what they want, their language will automatically include words that have more power to persuade and influence others. (Note that, once you identify some of these words, you may need to do some practice runs for a while to start to get comfortable about saying them to someone else!)
- Get really clear about the response you desire. Being vague about your desired outcome take all the power out of the communication, so be sure your are laser focused on what you want!
- Make the request again, incorporating the new, more assertive words into your communication. Make it a clear, and polite yet firm, “here’s what I need, and here’s when I need it” kind of message.
- If their answer is “No” ask open-ended questions about what it would take for them to be able to say “Yes.” People often give up without taking this next step, but when you engage people in a true dialogue, your prospects for finding a mutually acceptable common ground with them goes way up!
The key beginning a true dialogue, in this situation as in many others, is quieting or eliminating any self-defeating beliefs you may have, and learning to speak to your target audience in language they understand. So give this a try next time you feel stymied, and let me know how it goes!
Remember also that you do not have to go it alone! Take a half hour or so to use my Caregivers Step-By-Step Guide and audio, to get some clarity and begin to shift your mindset.
You can find that freedom in the midst of the overwhelm…really!
Leave your comments, questions or concerns below… I look forward to hearing from you.
And we breathe…
You folks helped me with some struggles I had with my relationship with my brother and although I am coping much better now, the communications between us are still strained. This post about “being heard” really rang my bell! I recently invited my brother and his wife to treat them to dinner out (they live in Manhattan, so I asked if we could dine at a restaurant in NJ instead of NYC because I have difficulty dealing with city traffic/parking/subways etc). I sent them this invitation in April. Their response? They were very busy but they plan to play golf in New Jersey sometime this summer and then they can meet me at a restaurant near where they are playing golf.
So it’s great how people re-frame and take control of someone else’s invitation, deciding the time and the place. And they did this with no regard for the fact that the invitation was extended in APRIL and now it’s July and strangely enough, they still have no golf plans for NJ. Loren, this is my only sibling and I figure I don’t rate high enough to deserve a special date sometime SOON that isn’t tied to their GOLF plans!
Now, I don’t want to go even if they DO play golf soon. My instinct is to strike back and if they tell me a weekend they will be in NJ playing golf, well I’ll just say I can’t make it and… maybe I’ll be in NYC sometime going to a museum and if I do, I’ll give them a call.
Am I nuts? Or is this weird? How the heck do I get back in control of the invitation or do I give up? I feel like a wimp and I feel like I haven’t been heard.