Be Understood: Make People Listen To You ✓

Have you ever felt like people don’t listen to you? In this week’s video, I will share with you how you can prime your audience in a state ready to process your message. This is applicable whether you are in a meeting, public speaking environment or even a conversation in a social gathering.


So, the following is usually what happens; let’s see if you have been in that situation.

You are in a meeting or a social gathering, you say something;

And when you don’t get the attention you want, then you start rephrasing the same sentence.

You do that right?

I know you do it.

That’s what happens.

Because you are thinking “oh they didn’t understand me”. So, I should continue explaining it more.  Then you use different words to explain the same thing.

When that doesn’t work, you start changing your pitch, your speed. And eventually, you end up talking about the same thing for 5 minutes.

Nothing works.

This happens all the time. A few years ago, one of my junior consultants from my team came out of a meeting crying. She was crying. It was not particularly a good meeting with our client. But she was crying because they didn’t really pay much attention to her.

She felt unimportant.

Why is this happening to me, I am a good consultant. I am a Stanford graduate. I deserve better.

Then, she said it’s happening, because she’s a junior consultant. It’s because of her title. Then, she said it’s happening because she’s a girl.

I said no. It had nothing to do with it.

Now, I’ll share with you what I shared with her that day.

First, a bit of a disclaimer here, this video isn’t about how to speak effectively. I am not going to talk about your pitch, speed, and prosody.

I am going to talk about something a lot more important than that. In fact, I am going to talk about a prerequisite to delivering a great speech.

Because, even if you are a worldclass toastmaster, that you can give the best speech in the world, it makes no difference if your audience isn’t ready to receive your message.

So, that’s what this video is all about. Getting your audience ready to listen to you.

Let’s start;

To get through to anyone, to get your message processed by your audience, you have to first understand how the brain works.

So, at any given time, we have 2 systems at work. 1 is active and 1 is idle.

The 1st system is fast, instinctive and emotional. It’s mostly automatic and it’s our unconscious way of thinking. For example, if I ask you what does 4 by 4 equal to. You already know the answer is 16 and you don’t need to “think” to come up with that answer.

So, that’s system 1 talking.

It just blurted out the answer without even having to think about it. You go to shopping you look at various food options, and you just pick what comes to your mind. You don’t go through a detailed analysis with certain criteria and a strategy. You just felt like eating pasta.

And you bought Pasta.

95% of your time awake, you are in this system.

Ok, let’s move on to the System 2.

The system 2 is the one that represents your conscious thoughts.  This system is the one that is capable of following instructions, connecting dots,  and making analogies. It is smart, analytical, and accurate.

It is your mental superpower

if I ask you to calculate 21 by 78 then your brain will engage System 2 to find the answer. Which means it’ll be slow,

but accurate…

Something you need to know;

System 2 is also very energy intensive, and it simply doesn’t want to work unless it really has to. So, whenever possible it will stay in the background, in idle position, conserve your energy, and only engage when it’s really, absolutely necessary.

We don’t like thinking. Thinking is uncomfortable.

Now, let’s talk about what this means to you when you are speaking with other people. Be it your boss, a client, your spouse, your friends…

Here’s your punchline (finger snap);

you’ll fail miserably if you are talking about something important to System 1 side of your audience .

Did you get this?

I don’t care how amazing of a toastmaster you are.

I don’t care if you are the most charismatic speaker in the world.

You won’t get what you want.

Try teaching your kids special relativity when they are playing in the park.

Good luck with that.

As I said, you won’t get what you want if you talk to system 1. You want to talk to System 2.

Ok, the natural question to follow is;

how do you do that? I mean it’s the brain of the audience. How is it possible that I can change their state? I mean I can’t just say alright now you turn on the system 2 because I want your full attention…

No. Obviously not.

But, there are certain things I do, which triggers the activation of system 2 in my audience so my message gets properly processed.

Now, I am going to teach you how I do it.

One more disclaimer here; What I covered so far was scientific. A Nobel Laurette Dr. Daniel Kahneman has a great book on this topic. If you are interested please feel free to read more in his book.

Now, what will follow isn’t necessarily scientific.

I’ll share with you what I do, and what I know works for me and works for those around me whom learned it from me.

It’s not an absolute blueprint to follow but it’s a good guideline and based on this guidelines you can create your own versions.

There are 3 ways I found you can achieve this. You can use any of these based on your particular situation.

First one is; Give them a task.

The task needs to be easy enough not to ignore, yet difficult enough that System 1 can’t handle on its own. It needs to involve thinking.

Remember how we spoke about how you know 4 by 4 equals to 16 and you don’t need to think about it. But if I ask  you 21 by 73 you can’t just come up with an answer. So, you just need to find a task that fits into your discussion.

For example,

“I can’t remember now, what was the confidence score from Nielsenn’s report?”

Another one

“ Can you let me know what methodology you used”

“ What is the name of the finance director from our ABC Client”

The examples I gave are fairly simple ones. But the important takeaway is that it’s a task that requires thinking to arrive an answer.

So, this was your first method.

The second method, is giving a command; This is comparably less effective compared to the first technique but doesn’t hurt to share it here.

Here is an example;

“I’d like you to now pay attention to what I am about to say” Then pause.

“ Please listen carefully now”

Then pause for a few seconds again.

So, the third technique which I use very frequently is a bit more complex. But I found that it works a lot better than any of previous 2 techniques;

So, this technique is all about first creating uncertainty and a potential for a challenge.

Let me just quickly demonstrate what I mean by that. Then, we’ll break it down.

It’s like this;

“I see your point?!..”

“I understand. But uhmm”

“That’s interesting…However,..”

Or you can just simply shock the audience.

For example, I remember an instance a couple of years ago, at PwC Consulting, we were working with our government client. And we were in a monthly project update meeting with the minister himself. And it was a very large meeting. Easily  50 people in a very long narrow table. So, consultants and project leads present their projects. But everyone was bored out of their minds. It was just a very uninteresting, unintellectual experience and learning was close to zero. People were just checking their emails, speaking with people next to them. Minister himself wasn’t engaged. So, the meeting was serving very little purpose.

When my turn came to present the updates for my projects. I knew that my projects were way too important to fall on deaf ears. Plus, I needed minister’s support on something. I needed the full attention.  I needed to speak to System 2 side of my audience.

So, before I started presenting my projects. I first primed the audience and I said;

“I am going to make a confession” Then I paused.

“My project is failing”.

Then, I shocked the audience and minister himself. Then I said,

it’s failing because while on our implementation plan, my project is on budget, schedule, and the quality. But, we are not doing an excellent job in terms of training the local talent in our teams. When this engagement is over, I am not confident – as of now- whether they will be able to take it over from us. But, I have a plan.”

That’s when I fully engaged the minister himself.

Because I knew that’s what he cared about the most. He wasn’t interested in the boring details of our projects, their schedule, and timelines, and fancy powerpoint slides. No! He wanted to know whether 2 months from now when we leave, if the local resources will be able to carry on the good work we are doing. He’ll be there for 4 years not 2 months. He’s not interested in a 2 month sprint. He wants to win the marathon.

This was great for me. With that opening, he got totally engaged with my project. He understood my bottlenecks, he helped with assigning new resources, and got so many doors open.

So, I got everything I wanted from that meeting. And without priming the audience, getting them into the System 2 state, this would have been impossible.

Before me, over 20 project managers presented and they got nothing out of that meeting. I was the only one who got all the support he wanted.

The video is done, but before you go. I have something important to say. I wanted to say this in previous videos, but I somehow kept forgetting.

If you like me, if you like my videos, and if you want to see more of these career hacks, I need a favor from you.

I need you to share it in Linkedin or Twitter, or both.

If this channel is to grow, it can only grow thanks to you. I can share my point of view, I can share my decades of management consulting experience, and all the challenges I faced and how I overcame them so you can benefit from my experience.

But if you don’t share and spread the message. Our reach will always be limited. If this channel will grow, it will only grow because of you.

So, let’s share.

And if you do share in Linkedin, please send me an invitation to connect. Let’s connect, let’s talk. I’d love to be connected to you. I’d love to hear about you. Send me a message. I’ll respond. I am a real person. Not a digital reflection on a computer.

And if we can create this synergy for growth, together, I have one promise for you. I will never ever; waste your time, with any of my videos. If you see a video coming from me, it will not be some stupid “3 tips for Resume Successs” . No. It will be valuable and it will have substance, something that’s worth your time.

Ok. now, see you next week!

And finally, if you are unemployed or underemployed, or you are looking to make a transition in your career, I strongly recommend you check out my LIG program. Over 1,000 people have joined so far and we have transformed over 600 of those careers. The link should be in the description box.

Now, see you next week!