Have you ever had a lovely conversation with someone you just met, but you can’t remember their name? Have you ever asked someone a question and could not recall what their answer was? Did you ever retell a story but your version was very different from the original story’s details? If so, you might have a problem with your listening skills. These days we are constantly bombarded with instant information, short anecdotal stories, and lightning fast changes in topics. Are we no longer allowing ourselves to be present in our own lives? Are moments in our life just to be thumbed through like posts on Facebook? What would happen if we all just decided to hit the “PAUSE” button from time to time? All of these distractions add up to deficient listening skills. Parents are often getting reports from teachers about how their child seems distracted and is not paying attention in class. After years of working with young students, I believe distracted minds can sometimes be a learned behavior. For example, we have access to hundreds of television channels and digital on-demand media to watch anytime or anywhere. Anyone can skip/fast forward/reply anytime through anything that begins to bore them. Patience is no longer required. The bottom line is that we are getting very familiar with receiving information in short bursts. Therefore, we are learning that we only have to pay attention and listen for short bits of time. All of this adds up to a very bad habit. We are blessed to have instant access to information, but we simply cannot depend on that to listen and record for us. Take a few moments to review some tips on how pause and be a better listener:
· Make eye contact during your conversation. Watching facial expressions and hand gestures can help you stay engaged in others’ words.
· Decide to be present in the moment. You are unlikely to live this moment again, absorb it while you can. Choose to be conscious of the smells, sounds and feelings of where you are.
· Be optimistic, in every conversation, meeting, task or class, identify the positives points in each situation. It will change your perspective on life and you might learn something new.
· Learn to enjoy silences in life. Meditation or sitting quietly for moments in the day can make you appreciate the background sounds in life that you are missing.
· Take notes. In certain situations such as phone conversations, lectures or meetings, the act of recording key words can help you concentrate and follow along.
· Listen to your biofeedback. Being tired or hungry can really impact your ability to pay attention. If you know that you are not a morning person, schedule according to when you are the most aware. Make sure you are physically prepared by be nourished and hydrated before class or a meeting.
· Remain calm! When you are anxious or upset, your mind is racing and your ability to hear and recall small important details can be impaired. Remember to take deep consistent breaths and focus on listening for critical content.
Breaking a habit is never easy, but this one is worth it. There are so many reasons why to become a better listener. Hit the pause button on life now and then and you might notice a lot that you have been missing!