You’re probably not as good of a listener as you think you are.

Statistically, it’s true for most people. Many professionals believe that they’re highly attentive, but 70% of them actually exhibit poor listening habits in the workplace, according to a 2020 University of Southern California report. So you’ve got to be clever if you want to grasp someone’s attention, says Matt Abrahams, a communication consultant and organizational behavior lecturer at Stanford University.

It’s a lesson that Abrahams learned, in part, while lecturing. Polite requests for his students’ attention fell on deaf ears, drowned out by their “chit-chatting,” he tells CNBC Make It.

Here are the two ways he recommends commanding a room instead.

Don’t say anything at all

You’re in a meeting room, chatting with co-workers. One of your company’s executives walks up to the front of the room, stands behind a podium and gazes out at the group. Odds are good that you’ll stop talking.

“One of the best things to do to command attention and get people to be quiet is to actually just stand in front of them and not say anything,” Abrahams says. “Just to physically stand up in a position where everybody can see you.”

It only takes four seconds for silence to become awkward, according to a Dutch psychology study published in 2011. It might feel uncomfortable for you too, but the awkwardness alone “will typically draw people in,” says Abrahams.

While you’re waiting, you can try to control your breathing or clear your mind. “It’s very hard to stand in silence, but that can be very helpful,” he adds.

Make a declarative statement, repeat it if necessary

Saying something impactful or thought-provoking with no warning can have a similar effect, says Abrahams.

“Just this past Monday, we were talking [in class] about nonverbal presence. They’re all talking and I just stood there for a moment. And then I said, ‘How you say something is often as important or more important than what you say,'” Abrahams says. “And then I paused, and they’re still shuffling on, and then I repeated it. And then everybody was quiet.”

Put simply, don’t ask for control — just demonstrate it. You can also try other tactics like starting a big presentation with a question, or playing music before an event starts, which signals that something else is about to happen, says Abrahams.

“Just exerting that control, either by asking a question, standing in silence or making some kind of declarative sentence that’s provocative will help people [listen],” he says. “You might have to repeat yourself once or twice, but that’s what I do.”

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