Why Clients and Colleagues May Not Be Listening To You

Do you ever feel people aren’t listening to you? You are talking with a client, colleague, or manager, and it seems as though they literally have their hands over their ears, shouting ‘LaLaLa!!!”?

Yea…. me, too.

If this hadn’t happened so often over the years, in all types of scenarios, I would’ve taken it upon myself and explained it away with  “Well… I guess my idea was bad,”  or “Hey… maybe my advice wasn’t good,” or even better (read: worse) filled that space with a negative, self-derogatory thought.

Throughout the earlier years of my career, I often felt the lack of listening during interactions with my manager at the time. It’d go a little something like this: we’d be in a meeting, I’d make a suggestion or comment and, almost always, I’d be immediately dismissed.


True story

And, to add insult to injury, he’d almost always take the very same advice I’d presented, from one of my colleagues. They would literally regurgitate my thoughts – making the entire situation frustrating, disheartening, a bit passive-aggressive, and absolutely exhausting.

But, once coworkers started to pay attention (even noting the situation for themselves), I realized that this LaLaLa’ing was truly my manager’s issue. It wasn’t mine at all! Once I realized this, I was finally able to bid it good riddance.

Since all of the LaLaLa’ing occurred within a single work environment – I assumed it was simply the nature of that work environment… until, (cue the dun-dun-duunnnn) it started creeping into OTHER working environments, where I had complete control.

Enter: my very own business and with some of my very own clients. ,
Now, typically when I face an issue like this – I take a quick inventory:

How am I communicating?
Am I rambling?
Am I not coherent?

Why aren’t people listening

Yes, like everyone, I am a work-in-progress when it comes to communicating. But sometimes, it’s as if we all boarded the Express LaLaLa!!! Train to Mis-Communication Town.

Hmmm….what’s happening here?! I don’t remember purchasing that ticket.

And then an “Ah-ha!” courtesy of our good friend, Google via an on-point article on the LaLaLa!!! Phenomenon, written by Dr. Susan Heitler, Ph.D. In the article, Dr. Heitler explains 10 possible reasons someone may not be listening to you (and the best part is, most are about them, not you!), Phew! The reasons she listed were BRILLIANT.

For me, these 5 reasons ALONE offered me not only the perspective I was looking for but allowed me to feel less anxious about my own communication style. Here they are:

Dr. Heitler’s Possibility #1: They don’t listen to me because of confirmation bias and cognitive dissonance

My take away: Due to the fact that people tend to listen to opinions that are similar to theirs, perhaps my clients weren’t listening to me because my advice isn’t on point with what they believe to be their truth. Therefore, they dismiss it out of bias to their own opinion.

Furthermore, if they have a feeling about me going into the conversation already, it will shape how they receive my information.

Dr. Heitler’s Possibility #2: They distrust me.

My take away: Now here is where the rubber meets the road – especially with MY clients. Could it be that they don’t TRUST my advice?

Granted, with existing clients it can go two ways…

1) They trust me, but only to a point – like, ‘I trust you to create my website’ but ‘don’t trust you to know any strategies to MARKET my website’… This is where I dig even deeper because it then becomes a question of trusting EXPERIENCE versus ABILITY.

2) They trust me, but only view me in a specific role. Often times I’ve noticed that I’m looked upon as ‘the trusted workhorse’. Need something done? Toss it to Lysa – she’ll get it done. For my clients, I’m a ‘workhorse’, not the ‘rider’. Therefore, they tend to not ask to trust me where to go – just where to follow.

Dr. Heitler’s Possibility #3. They don’t listen to me because of how I treat myself.

My takeaway: Mayday! Mayday! This one had me SUNK, as I clearly have a tendency to speak in a dismissive way about myself. Yikes! Reading this one made me think – ‘Gosh, girl, buck up!’ How do you expect people to treat you with respect if you disrespect yourself? Yup…totally spot on here…(can we say ‘work-in-progress’?)

Dr. Heitler’s Possibility #4. They don’t listen to me because I’ve been giving advice instead of information.

My takeaway: THIS is a game changer for me and a must-read for any consultant or coach.

Information empowers others to make their own decisions. For example: “Planting flowers before June in Colorado often results in lots of frozen, never-to-grow-again plants.”

While advice risks undermining others’ sense of personal empowerment, especially when it is given with insistence that “You should do it THIS way.”

Now – I don’t ever ‘insist’ (unless you are my child), however sometimes even with the best intentions, our advice sounds insistent rather than simply trying to be informational.  

Dr. Heitler’s Possibility #5.  Others don’t listen to me because they treat me the way I treat them.

My takeaway: Oh, my favorite…do unto others. I often refer to this rule (and yes, it’s a rule in my house, as I believe it should be universally). But, on this one, sometimes, you have to rise above.

“There’s nothing worse for a person’s personal empowerment than not being heard.”

It makes us all quieter, smaller people. While some people have no problem with being heard, a wheel shouldn’t have to squeak to be heard.

For the record: I recognize my shortcomings, and am working to be a better communicator. BUT! ne thing I’ve learned is that sometimes it’s not you, it’s them. Sometimes, a person just isn’t going to listen to you.

And, that’s ok. That’s on them. Don’t let it define your perceived value of yourself.

While we all can work on ways to be more effective communicators, keep this in mind:

  1. You aren’t for everyone, and that’s ok. Your peeps WILL listen to you.
  2. Be kind to yourself. You are a work in progress (as is everyone else, btw ;).
  3. Focus on your strengths. They will help you meet the challenges that arise.
  4. Find a support system that loves you and makes you feel like the rockstar you are.
  5. Surround yourself with clients and colleagues that respect you.
Are you being heard? Have you ever been dismissed? How effective is your communication with clients, customers, and colleagues? Share your experiences in the comments below!


active listening, communication, dismissiveness, listening, listening skills, respect, valued communication

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