In today's world, technology often feels like an extension of the physical body; for example, leaving a cell phone at home (an external brain of sorts and extra communicator) can leave one feeling bereft and unable to function efficiently during the day. While the use of technology has undoubtedly imported...
In today's world, technology often feels like an extension of the physical body; for example, leaving a cell phone at home (an external brain of sorts and extra communicator) can leave one feeling bereft and unable to function efficiently during the day. While the use of technology has undoubtedly imported many benefits and conveniences into our lives, it also threatens our ability to engage and connect with other people in a completely focused way. It is no wonder that many states have banned cell-phone use for drivers, who are prone to diminished awareness of other drivers and their surroundings when using their device. I, too, have become accustomed to thinking and functioning as a multi-tasker, such as walking into a store a paying for groceries while listening to my iPod, which reduces my capacity to focus on people I interact with. Technology gives me permission to shut down the part of me that interfaces well with others and, by association, that listens well when people are conveying something heartfelt or important. Too often, I find my mind has become habituated to wandering, with the result that only a fraction of my awareness is on the person I'm having the conversation with.
There are also mental constructs and emotional barriers that limit my ability to listen fully; for example, if I have a visceral, emotional reaction -- usually a negative one -- to something another person says, I might dissociate, or become argumentative, or try to end the conversation abruptly. All of these response indicate that I am not listening well.
It is always easy to perceive when someone isn't giving me their undivided attention when I'm talking. There are usually physical signs, like roving eyes, fidgeting or compulsively checking technology. Yet, there is also something imperceptible -- an intuitive sense that someone is mentally distracted or isn't really interested in what I'm saying -- that is hard to describe in words. Even more aggravating is the unskilled listener who doesn't even try to disguise the fact he isn't paying attention by constantly interrupting or talking over the other person; this is not only disrespectful, but also arrogant.
The main aspect I could improve on to become a better listener is to learn how to give my undivided attention to someone without becoming distracted by a litany of mental judgments, opinions and thought patterns that unnecessarily pulls focus back into myself. I need to remind myself that it is important to give others the same respect and attention I would want if I were sharing something meaningful.