Texting while driving is a practice proven to be dangerous and even fatal. We now have laws prohibiting the use of hand-held devices that cause distracted driving. I hope you’re a law-abiding driver.
Even though you’re not using your phone while you’re behind the wheel, you still have ample opportunities to stay connected with the wireless world. Let’s assume you’ve conquered the demons of distracted driving. I’d like to make you aware of a new challenge: distracted listening. This occurs when you’re physically with another person but your attention and interests are elsewhere. Your hand-held device makes distracted listening an even bigger challenge.
Distracted listening is not as physically dangerous as distracted driving. But it is highly hazardous to your ability to develop meaningful relationships. Consider…
How Do YOU Feel?
Think about a time when you’re with someone who is paying more attention to an electronic device than to you. How does that person make you feel? Do these feelings capture the experience?
Is it possible that you are inflicting these same feelings on others when the distracted listener is YOU? And the habit is not limited to electronic distractions.
Why would you choose to be so distracted? While it is likely not a conscious choice, that doesn’t diminish the emotional punishment that you’re dishing out. Consider the public service announcement slogan about distracted driving:
“It can wait.”
Is Distracted Listening a Habit You Want to Change?
If so, just trying to stop doing it doesn’t work. In order to change a habit, you must replace it with something else. You need to be aware of the consequences and care enough to make a change. So here’s my suggestion. Begin each interaction with…
The Cure: Start With Two Minutes of Total Presence
What is “Total Presence”? This occurs when you consciously give the other person your engaged, exclusive attention.
- No distractions
- Complete Engagement
- Listen with your eyes and your ears
- Use those senses to understand the body language and emotions
- Nothing else matters for that moment
Those two minutes give you momentum for a quality interaction. Make it a habit. For the rest of the time, don’t you dare screw up your rapport by reaching for an electronic device. It is guaranteed to inflict emotional distress on another human being.