Have you ever smiled and nodded after not hearing a word someone just said… and you didn’t want to ask for a replay because you’re embarrassed that you weren’t paying attention? We’ve heard about the dangers of “distracted driving” and the damage it can do. What about “distracted talking,” which can damage communication and relationships?
I’m talking about the hypnotic, heads-down stare into your smart phone or laptop when someone is talking to you. I admit I’m guilty of this. I love the way my little electronic leash keeps me connected to work, family and friends, but I admit sometimes I am slow to look up and pay full attention when someone approaches my “real world” air space.
In the interest of improving communication with our friends, family and co-workers, I humbly offer 3 bits of advice for talkers and talkees:
How to get attention:
Before you launch into your question, ask first “May I ask you a question?” It may seem like an unnecessary waste of words, but “asking if you can ask” will break them out of their distracted mode and elicit an honest response. They may actually tell you no, which saves you both time in the long run. You will only get divided attention if they are engrossed in something more important than your needs at that moment.
How to know if someone has been listening:
Pause and say “OK, let’s recap before I go.” “Go” is the magic word here (especially if they’ve been secretly wishing you’d get lost during your whole conversation.) Then stand there and wait for them to make eye contact and respond. If they scramble to come up with something coherent, help them out by offering your own recap. After being put on the spot (gently), I guarantee they will remember what you say next.
How to make friends:
Give face-to-face humans absolute priority over your digital devices. When someone enters your sphere, turn toward them, look them in the eye, tune in to body language and enjoy the personal interaction. Even if it’s business-related, take a moment to ask them about their day. It’s a nice warm-up to the main topic.
Is it better to have a higher number of faster interactions, or get better results from fewer interactions? I’m going to make a conscious effort to get my head out of my crackberry and really pay attention. It’s the best way to avoid getting a distracted talking ticket… and walking into walls.