Leadership

Here's how to get people to listen to you when you speak

Julian Treasure on the TED stage
Julian Treasure on the TED stage

People are bad at listening. Statistically, you're probably one of them.

But Julian Treasure, a sound and communication expert who gave a TED Talk titled "How to speak so that people want to listen" that earned over 20 million views, says there's hope yet.

When you speak, he tells CNBC Make It, there's one important thing to always ask yourself since everyone listens differently: "What is the listening I'm speaking into?"

"It's a common mistake to speak the same to everybody," he says. "We all have different filters."

Everyone has their own life experience that shapes their outlook, and effective communication is about being conscious and aware of that, he says. It's about understanding that interacting with someone else is a dynamic process.

"People think it's a line," says Treasure. "It's not. It's a circle. Because the way you listen affects the way I speak, and the way I speak affects the way you listen."

When he speaks to an older crowd, he changes his pace and cultural references. Giving a talk abroad from his home in the United Kingdom, he slows down.

Other tips: After he makes an important point, he takes a long pause. When Treasure knows he has someone on the ropes, he quiets to a whisper.

"You can detect a hostile listening, or a bored listening, or a tired listening or an excited and engaged listening," he says. No matter the circumstance, you have to adjust.

That means you can't be distracted by focusing on yourself. Your speech isn't about you, so don't worry about self-promotion or proving your worth, according to Treasure. "For the great speakers," he says, "it's all about the audience. And the feeling they have is that they're giving a gift, of maybe knowledge or inspiration or motivation."

If you are aware of this, people will listen to you, as long as you also use appropriate oratory skills. In his new book to be released this fall, "How to be Heard," Treasure advises standing upright and holding your head at an angle that isn't constricting your throat.

These things are more important than you probably realize. As Treasure notes in the TED Talk, for example: "We vote for politicians with lower voices, because we associate depth with power and with authority."

And today, he believes the importance of listening is especially evident in the political realm. Counting on soundbites and 140 character tweets for information can put us in a dangerous position, says Treasure.

"Listening is a crucial aspect of democracy," he says. "Listening creates understanding, and understanding permits one of the most important things about every democracy, which is civilized disagreement."

Treasure adds: "I always say in our world where not many people are listening, I think it would be much better if politicians, instead of going off and having talks, went off and had listens."

He expands on the topic's importance in his second most-popular TED Talk, "5 ways to listen better."

"Quite interesting actually to note," he says, "that the talk on talking has been seen by four times as many people as the talk on listening, which says something about our priorities in the world, I think."

That's the irony: If you want people to hear you when you speak, you better learn how to listen.

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