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Make sure you're heard
No one likes to feel ignored. So if your great ideas are flowing in one of your boss's ears and streaming right out the other, use these solutions to get yourself heard.
You've got a great solution to improve client care or increase profits, yet somehow when you try to share your suggestion it's as if you've become invisible. No one seems to listen or care. Instead, your opinions and ideas are glossed over, put aside, or worse yet, never even acknowledged.
It seems as though nothing short of climbing atop the reception desk, dying your hair blue, and shouting at the top of your lungs will get you heard. And while this approach might get you noticed—and even make you feel better—it probably won't lend your ideas much credibility. So, hold off on that dye job, take stock, and try to identify the source of the disconnect.
Communication takes at least two people, so the problem may have something to do with your approach or your perception of the issue. Or you may need to learn more about how your boss or co-workers listen. These hearing aids will help you tackle your listeners' toughest hearing problems.
HEARING PROBLEM: YOU'RE A MOUSE WHEN IT COMES TO SPEAKING UP.
Think back to the situations where you felt ignored. Now be honest. Was it difficult to speak up? Did you clearly state what was on your mind, or did you stumble over your words for fear someone might think your suggestions were silly or stupid?
HEARING AID: BORROW A LION'S VOICE.
What you have to say is important, and your colleagues really do want to know what you think, so take a risk. If you're the shy type and speaking in front of a group feels like standing before a firing squad, look for other ways to get your message out. Is there another team member you can share your thoughts with on the side? Could you speak to the boss one-on-one?
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"Often clients will share things with one member of the staff that they don't share with the others," says Susan Payne, the practice manager at Haskell Valley Veterinary Clinic in Olean, N.Y. "And that piece of information could be vital to care decisions."
For example, a client at haskell confided to the receptionist that her husband had been laid off recently and the family's finances were strained. The client was worried about how to pay the bill—a fact she likely wasn't going to broadcast to the entire team. Because the receptionist spoke up about what she knew discreetly, the client was better served. Payne was able to offer an alternative payment option that the receptionist presented to the client in private. Another scenario: payne says clients will also offer personal information to the veterinary assistant before the exam begins that they might not share with the doctor later.
HEARING PROBLEM: YOUR MESSAGE DOESN'T GRAB THE LISTENER'S INTEREST.
Managers often suffer from the same type of selective hearing that afflicts children when you try to call them in from playing outside. You can yell until you've lost your voice and they will ignore you. Yet somehow, when you announce that dinner is ready, the kids can hear you from miles away.
Six tips to be a better listener
Consider this: Are you presenting a problem or an idea with no support, or are you offering your audience a reason to listen?
HEARING AID: CREATE A MESSAGE YOUR LISTENERS CAN'T RESIST.
Managers often complain that everyone comes to them with problems. So if you can offer the solution—or reason to listen—you increase the odds that you'll be heard.
Louise Dunn of Snowgoose Veterinary Management Consulting in Greensboro, N.C., says she worked with a practice where some team members wanted to offer puppy socialization classes—a traditionally not-so-profitable idea. They wooed management by solving a problem: loss of business because of euthanasia. When they presented the idea, they put the solution first. They argued that poor behavior was one of the top reasons that owners euthanized pets. The result was that the practice lost patients—and business.
So, offering puppy socialization classes was a great investment in future business, even if the classes didn't generate much profit. After all, happy owners would do more to promote their pets' long-term health. And if these clients already had a relationship with the practice through the puppy classes, they would be more likely to come back for other medical needs. Management agreed to the classes, and they have been a great success. Clients who have participated in the classes visit more often because they're bonded to team members.
HEARING PROBLEM: YOUR LISTENER HAS TUNED YOU OUT.
You see that glazed look slip over your listener's face as soon as you open your mouth—and you're dying to replace it with one of acceptance and respect.
HEARING AID: IDENTIFY THE KIND OF LISTENERS YOU WORK WITH.
"Most people are either task-oriented or relationship-oriented listeners," says Sheila Grosdidier, RVT, a Firstline Editorial Advisory Board member and a consultant with VMC Inc. Task-oriented listeners tune in to facts and figures, while relationship-oriented listeners ears' perk up when you mention feelings and emotions.
For example, say you've got an idea about how to keep the schedule on track. If your boss is task-oriented, get to the point. Try saying, "I've noticed that by lunch we're usually running about 20 minutes behind. I think that if we tried my idea we could stay on schedule." If your boss is a relationship listener, a more effective approach might be, "I feel that we're getting behind because we don't do this, and I think it impacts our relationships with clients. I think we could try ... ."
HEARING PROBLEM: YOUR LISTENER DOESN'T REACT TO YOUR SUGGESTIONS.
You sometimes wonder whether she heard you. Or maybe she just doesn't care what you think.
HEARING AID: ALTER YOUR PERCEPTION.
Sometimes you might feel ignored, when in reality you've been heard loud and clear but your management team can't explain how they reacted to the problem. Ask yourself whether the issue is sensitive or confidential. For example, if you spoke to your boss about another co-worker, your boss may have responded, but professionalism or confidentiality dictates that she won't say how. She may have pulled the other person aside to discuss the problem or even reprimanded your co-worker—something she can't share with you.
Or maybe your listener seems distracted because she's having personal problems, suggests Cecelia Soares, DVM, MS, MA, a veterinarian and marriage and family therapist in Walnut Creek, Calif. If a supervisor or co-worker seems distant or distracted, perhaps she's dealing with a family illness or conflict at home. So give her the benefit of the doubt, Dr. Soares says. If the problem continues, however, you may need to gently explain that you're feeling tuned out.
Finally, consider this: Is your listener really ignoring you, or are you just not happy with her answer? "Sometimes people feel like they're not being heard when really it's just that they didn't get what they wanted," says Dr. Soares. "For example, maybe you asked for a change of duties and your boss said no." If this is the case, think of another strategy to influence your listener or accept her answer and move on. Perhaps you can engage another co-worker or manager to help persuade the listener.
Heather Kirkwood is a freelance writer in Overland Park, Kan. Please send questions or comments to: email@example.com