Have you ever felt that people heard you but didn’t listen to you? Almost as if your words sound like the teacher from the Charlie Brown cartoons. There is one powerful tool that you can use to turn that around – hope.

During the past week I’ve been thinking about what keeps people motivated when times get tough. What compels a person to hold on to their dream when it seems like that dream will never come true?

After a few days, it struck me that hope was the thing that got people through those times. Hope, even in the smallest amount, is a radically powerful characteristic that marks the lives of the people to whom we most admire and listen to.

Hope in action

My wife recently rearranged our son’s room so that he’d have more space to play (insert the Step Brother’s scene where they had “so much more room for activities”). He was understandably excited all day with the new layout, but I knew that nighttime had the possibility to present some issues for him.

While his new room was intriguing and provided new adventures for him to play, it also presented a completely different look and feel for him to fall asleep. So, I made sure that I let him see what his room would look like with it dark before bedtime.

I even let him pick where his night light went.

It is his night-light that illuminated (pun intended) me to the power hope plays in getting us through tough times or starting something brand new.

My son’s fear of the dark seems trivial to me, but to him it seems huge and sometimes overwhelming. However, his fears are put aside with the comfort and hope that a night-light brings. The night-light reassures him that he is safe and that there isn’t anything in the dark that will “get him”.

Seeing his world through his eyes allows me to communicate hope verbally to him though reassuring him that his mother and I are here and he’s protected and non-verbally by taking his fear seriously by placing a night-light in his room.

How does this help you?

I’m not advocating that you buy night lights for people you want to listen to you. I am, however, saying that you should find a way to give hope to that person.

It will look different for each person and might even change by situation. I can tell you that it is not an impossible guessing game that you may occasionally win. Instead, it is an opportunity to add value to someone else’s life, and, in return, get their ear.

Think of the people to who you are most willing to give your attention. Do they have an ability to get you to believe in yourself? Or to get up when you’re down? Or how about to believe in your dreams even when you aren’t completely sure about them?

How do you give hope to a person?

The Bible says that hope is “belief in the things unseen” and most people are not where they want to be. Therefore, most people long for a life they cannot see. So, the big question you have to ask yourself is this, “how can I help this person realize their dreams”.

If you are a boss or supervisor, are you helping those that report to you achieve their hopes and dreams or are you only interested in how they can help you with yours? That same question goes for anyone in a position of authority or influence. This is the key to building and leading teams that will “run through walls” for their leader.

In order to give hope to people there are a few things that I’ve found key to successfully repeat this act:

1. You must have hope yourself. I’m not saying it should ooze and bubble out of you, but people can tell if you’re someone who is hopeful (full of hope) or hopeless. Even a small amount can be transformative to your life and those around you.

2. You must listen to others. Most of us operate from the opposite of this principle. We say, “I’ll listen to them when they start listening to me.” Nothing could be more counter-productive than expecting others to make the first move. The law of reciprocity is powerful and will help you to be listened to and not just heard.

3. You must ask deeper questions. How can you offer hope to a person and you don’t know what their hopes are?! It is not enough to just make eye contact, nod, and say “mmhmm” every few seconds so that others feel listened to. You must ask questions in response to statements. Then ask follow up questions. You cannot get to the heart of person if you’re unwilling to travel there.

There are many aspects of hope, but we don’t have time or space to cover them in one post. However, it has been a key tool in my communication and leadership belt that has allowed me to gain the attention of key people; supervisors, sales prospects, and even my family.

During this holiday season, there will be a lot of people who will need to need to hear and experience hope. Will you be an agent of hope or too caught up in your own business. Remember, if you want to be listened to, you have to listen first.

Warning: if you attempt to use these principles in a self serving or manipulative manner, you will be caught and word will spread that you are only out to help yourself. This will be harmful and can be irreparable to you and your goals. So, check your motives as you use what I’ve written.

[reminder]What positive communication or leadership tools do you use to make sure that people listen to you when you speak?[/reminder]

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