We have all been there. You need to discuss something with your coworker or employee, but no matter how hard you try to get the point across, they just aren’t listening. Their eyes glaze over, they look confused, they appear distracted, or they simply aren’t paying attention. Dealing with a passive listener can lead to tension in the workplace, as communication suffers and tensions rise.

We have been discussing the importance and skill of active listening in recent posts, and have also touched base on the idea that perception (translating the message) is a huge part of being a good active listener. As good of an active listener that you may be, how do you deal with someone who is a passive listener?

Communicating with someone who isn’t actively engaged in the conversation is a skill every manager must master. There are a number of ways to “get through” to your passive listener, including:

  • Find the right timing to talk
  • Reschedule another meeting if there are too many distractions
  • Ensure the topic is relevant to the other party
  • Maintain eye contact
  • Be clear and concise, don’t drone on and on
  • Always ask for feedback and input
  • Follow up with an email, reiterating the topics/points discussed
  • Schedule a follow up meeting as necessary

Remember to be patient throughout your conversations with your passive listener. Approach the conversation with understanding and empathy, and try to be willing to take the extra steps (as listed above) to ensure that your point gets across and is fully processed.

Ending a conversation with a passive listener can leave you feeling frustrated and discouraged. It is important to keep in mind that when conversing with a passive listener, they may not be readily receptive and eager to talk with you. The listener might already have a lot on their plate and may feel that you are just trying to give them more. Recognize that it is not personal.

Work with them to ensure that your message is not only is understood and received, but that they are aware that active listening is a communication skill that they need to work on. With a bit of commitment, improving communication and listening skills is something everyone can attain.