How to Finally Get Someone to Listen to You

Feel connected, seen and heard during hard conversations.

Posted Nov 09, 2020

Photo by Omid Armin on Unsplash
Source: Photo by Omid Armin on Unsplash

“Forget it, you never listen. I feel like I am talking to a wall.”

Growing up, I heard this refrain many times after my parents had another failed attempt at communicating about a challenging issue in our family’s life. 

I learned pretty quickly that emotional conversations about important life topics were fruitless and should be avoided. 

I hope you are not like me, but if you are, we aren’t alone. Most of the women I work with express worry over having important conversations with their exes, their lawyers, co-workers, and their kids.

In high school, we learn how to graph an algebraic equation on an XY axis, but we do not learn how to communicate effectively. 

Luckily, Alexandra Jamieson and Bob Gower, in their book Radical Alignment, provide us with a step-by-step guide on how to have difficult conversations. Their All-In Method (AIM) is “a guided conversation that helps people gain clarity and develop a deeper understanding of, and appreciation for each other and their shared experience.”

The AIM approach does not only teach you strategies for having meaningful conversations it focuses specifically on how both people can feel connected, seen, and heard while sharing vulnerabilities. 

This strategy is a special gift for anyone going through a divorce because it is specifically for “discussing a subject that feels important and is likely to raise deep emotions.” 

All conversations related to divorce have the possibility of triggering intense emotions in both parties so having a step-by-step guide that takes into consideration feelings should be consulted often.

Below are the four components of AIM according to Alexandra and Bob, but for more details and illustrative examples check out the book Radical Alignment. 

They provide helpful guidelines for the overall conversation. “Challenge yourself to speak with authenticity and to listen without judgment. When speaking, do your best to be vulnerable and complete. Only ask questions if they are encouraging and genuinely curious. Never ask questions that contain hidden judgments.” 

Set the stage: Make sure you are in a distraction-free comfortable environment where you can have all the time you need to focus on the conversation. Name the specific issues you will be discussing during this conversation. They explain a good set-up would look something like this: we are discussing the upcoming holidays so we can be a united front for our kids and ensure they get the most out of their vacation. 

State your intentions: State clearly what has brought you to this conversation in the first place. These questions might help: Why do you want to be part of this? How might this conversation support your personal growth and goals? What values of yours led you to start this conversation? This is such a unique idea to start with, how this conversation lines up with your values. It lays the foundation for you and your listener to respect the topic. 

List your concerns: When we actually state our concerns we often feel a sense of relief. Researchers have found that sharing our fears reduce overall anxiety. In addition, when we hear about other people’s concerns without being blamed for them, we are more likely to help. To help with this step, ask yourself what you are most afraid of and share that with the other person. 

Boundaries: Be clear about what is acceptable and what is unacceptable to you during this conversation and overall. Some questions to ask yourself: What do you need to be your best in this relationship? What will keep you from burning out? What can you simply not let go of for the sake of your well-being? Being clear about boundaries helps you and the other person know what solutions are possible.

DreamsAlexandra and Bob describe this step as the most fun. This is the time you can share what it would look like if this conversation goes incredibly well. You can begin to ask how will you feel if you get the desired outcome you want? How will you know that you have succeeded? This practice allows you to truly envision exactly what success would look like. Being clear on what you want helps you communicate more clearly.

The AIM approach that Alexandra Jamieson and Bob Gower present in their book Radical Alignment is a game-changer for anyone, and we all have difficult conversations. They lay out a clear method for how to ask for what you want while staying connected to your values and the other person.