Feeling unheard by others around you can be a painful experience. As humans, we need to experience acknowledgement and validation in order to feel valued, so when this doesn’t happen, it’s normal to feel rejected, neglected or invisible.
If you often find yourself thinking “nobody listens to me”, there are steps you can take to try to ensure that your voice is heard and consequently boost your self-esteem.
In everyday life, there are different situations where you may feel that nobody is listening to you. For example, this idea can be like background noise; something that’s always present.
In this case, thinking “nobody listens to me” can be a limiting belief. These are false or misguided ideas we create about ourselves, others, and how the world works. But as their name suggests, the problem with limiting beliefs is that they create barriers to our growth and well-being. If you think “nobody listens to me” by default, this may come from past experiences where you’ve felt unheard or someone has not taken into account your voice.
The problem lies in generalising past experiences into future expectations. If this happens often and for too long, you may come a point where you avoid expressing yourself due to the assumption you’re making (no one listens, so why bother). It’s important to watch out for this line of thinking because “nobody listens to me” can evolve into a harmful “I don’t deserve to be heard”.
If you’re an introvert, this thought can be due to an inaccurate interpretation of what it really means to be introverted. You may think, “nobody listens to me because I’m not a loud person, or because I don’t feel comfortable in front of others”. But, in fact, being heard is not linked to being loud – in fact, a lot of people tune out the loudest person in a room because they’re overbearing.
As well as feeling unheard on a daily basis, there are also specific occasions that lead you to think “nobody listens to me”. For example, when giving a presentation at university or at work.
Feeling unheard? Choose the right time to talk
Furthermore, the widespread adoption of remote work and the deluge of Zoom meetings many people have been exposed to has created challenges to effective communication. Online communication can be a bit chaotic and can easily lead to feeling unheard. This affects both professionals at work and students, so don’t feel that this problem is unique to you.
Whether you believe nobody is listening to you during specific moments or in day-to-day life, there are things you can implement to start being heard.
Even the most brilliant speakers can be ignored if they choose the wrong time to speak. You could be a motivational speaker, but if you try to make a speech when a plane is going down, you can be sure nobody is going to listen!
If you realise you’ve chosen the wrong time and someone isn’t listening, you can just admit this isn’t the best time and say you can try again some other time, leaving it up to the other person.
The human attention span has been decreasing over the past 15 years, and is currently estimated to be shorter than a goldfish’s (!) at just 8 seconds. This means that you only have a few precious seconds to get people’s attention.
Your voice is a fantastic asset if you know how to use it. First, consider your rate of speech, which should be between 140 and 160 words per minute. If it’s lower, it may be too slow to hold people’s attention, and if it’s too fast, your audience will feel lost.
“Even the most brilliant speakers can be ignored if they choose the wrong time to speak. You could be a motivational speaker, but if you try to make a speech when a plane is going down, you can be sure nobody is going to listen!”
This doesn’t mean that you should maintain a monotonous tone. Plan in advance where to pause, where to speed up, and which words or sentences to emphasise by raising or lowering your voice. Learn more about how the voice helps create a confident demeanour.
Up to 90 per cent of our communication is non-verbal. You could be saying all the right things at the right time, but if your body is telling a different story, people will notice it and will think that something doesn’t add up.
It can be helpful to practice speaking in front of a mirror, or even record yourself in a video, to see if your body language transmits confidence. If you notice any stooping or arms or leg crossing, you’ll want to correct this, as this type of body language sends negative signals.
Instead, focus on making eye contact or mirroring the body language of the person you’re talking to. This is interpreted as a sign of empathy and usually makes others more inclined to listen to you.
It can be frustrating to stay present in a conversation where the other person never gets to their point, which is why some people stop listening.
If you find it difficult to say exactly what you need to say – especially when it comes to difficult conversations – it may be useful to stop talking every so often and check that the other person is still following you. There’s nothing wrong with acknowledging that you tend to ramble, or be candid and ask the other person to tell you if you keep going around in circles are a failing to get to the point.
Confidence and knowledge aren’t enough to command attention. You really need to transmit a contagious emotional connection to the subject, so think about how passionate you are about the topic or at least about your stance on that topic.
“If you find it difficult to say exactly what you need to say, it may be useful to stop talking every so often and check that the other person is still following you.”
Bear in mind that you could also become too passionate and these high emotions could get on the way of clear communication. It may be too overwhelming for some people to follow enthusiastic but disorganised discourse, so they give up. I’m too familiar with this myself and personally I’ve found that concise writing of some notes in advance of an important conversation or meeting helps bring order and clarity to what I have to say.
Some people always say “the right thing”, but it doesn’t add much value because it feels as if they were reading it out of a textbook. Again, being heard is a matter of sincerity and passion. If you don’t know what to say, it may be better to admit it instead of resorting to a worn stereotype or to an empty expression that doesn’t add value.
Feeling like nobody listens to you is painful shutterstock/wavebreakmedia
Some people think that talking and listening are completely different actions, when in fact they’re closely linked together. This applies to conversations but also to settings like conferences and presentations.
Even in these settings where you’re not having a conversation with others, listening and keeping track of people’s reactions is crucial, as it gives you the clues needed to adapt your speech to what’s happening. Listening is as much a skill as it’s an attitude.
You can do all of the above and still find that some people don’t really listen to you. This doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong. Interaction and conversation are a two-way street where all parties need to be equally involved, so if you are still thinking “nobody listens to me”, remember that it’s not always your fault.
Some people are better communicators than others, but rest assured that we all feel unheard from time to time. However, you shouldn’t let this thought become a limiting belief. As explained, there are at least eight things you can do to get and hold people’s attention. Have you tried any of them, and if so, what has been your experience? •
Main image: shutterstock/Diego Cervo
A social sciences graduate with a keen interest in languages, communication, and personal development strategies. Dee loves exercising, being out in nature, and discovering warm and sunny places where she can escape the winter.
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