And it is no wonder.
Everything moves fast and seems to keep moving faster. There are often so many things we need to do and so many more activities going on at once around us.
It can be quite hard to create the mental space necessary to really listen to another human being.
The mechanics of hearing sound may be simple, but keeping the concentration necessary to process meaning from words and sentences is not.
At least it isn’t for most of us.
It’s one thing to concentrate when you have enough control over your environment to keep potential distractions minimized, for example, when you are sitting alone at your computer or listening to an audio with earphones.
But when you are in a conversation it can be much harder to keep the distractions at bay.
Furthermore you have no control over the speaker – not their speed of speech, the volume, or sometimes even when they choose to speak to you or what they want to speak about.
…There is no fast forward when someone is speaking too slowly or not getting to the point.
…There is no pause button you can press on a conversation, literally anyway, so you can catch up, take notes, think about how to respond, handle the thing you just remembered, or entertain the idea that just popped into your head.
…There is no replay button to catch what you missed when you checked out because you were listening to the conversation in your head rather than what the other person was saying.
Where’s that darn remote control when you need it!
No, it is not easy to really listen, even despite our best intentions.
Distractions are plentiful, both the ones external to us and the ones going on inside of us.
When I asked: “what is your listening challenge?” on Twitter, I received quite a few responses almost immediately. Those responses targeted the most common challenges people have in being able to listen.
Here is the first one and what you can do to overcome it. Stay tuned for more “listening challenges” in this series on Listening in the Age of Attention Deficit.
“My listening challenge is getting distracted/hooked by what’s happening elsewhere in the room, especially noise or movement.” @bestbityet
Sometimes the harder we try not to be distracted the more intrusive the things that are distracting us become.
Instead of trying not to let your attention drift away from the speaker, acknowledge whatever is distracting you to the speaker. It will bring your attention back to them and let them know you really want to hear what they have to say.
If that’s not enough, you may need to take action by moving to a quieter location, eliminating the distraction, setting aside another time and/or place to speak, etc.
Above all though, mindfully set yourself up to succeed by minimizing the potential for distractions.
This includes things like putting your phone on send, turning off your cell phone and putting it out of sight, closing the door, putting away anything that is likely to capture your attention, etc. You probably know what you need to do for you. So just do it. It is more important now than ever before.
What about you? Do you have this challenge? If so, what has worked for you?
Stay tuned for Part II…
P.S. I tried an experiement and recorded an audio as well. Click Here to listen. If you do I would love your feedback. Would you like more short audios from Random Acts of Leadership?