No, I don’t mean like Dumbo. 😉
I guess what I really mean to ask is if you are a good listener.
I’ve always thought that I was a good listener, and some people have even commented on it. I often find that people tell me things that they wouldn’t tell anyone else.
But on the other hand, I’m a really bad listener.
I don’t mean to be; it’s just the way it is.
I bet you’re not such a great listener, either.
And, like me, you don’t intend to be a bad listener. It’s just the way it is.
The reason that it is that way is because of our ADHD.
We have trouble paying attention. And if we’re not paying attention or focusing, we aren’t really listening. Plus we have that whole chorus of voices in our heads reminding us of everything all at once.
People notice when we’re not really listening to them.
Imagine if a child realizes that you’re not listening. That can be hurtful.
When my son was young, he would catch me not listening and then say something outrageous like, “Mom, I just saw a dinosaur walk through the living room.”
And when I would reply with something like, “That’s nice.” he would yell really loud: “MOM!”. “You’re not listening.”
My son seemed to not be hurt by it, but I know my daughters were; I could see the expression on their face.
Do you remember being in school and getting called on to answer a question, and not having any idea of what the teacher had asked?
Or having your boss give you instructions and then realize you don’t know what you’re supposed to do because you weren’t really listening?
Those are all tough situations. There is no good side to not listening to someone. Well, you know what I mean – when it’s important.
So how can you learn to really focus and listen?
Here are some ideas:
- Get yourself a fidget. A fidget is my name for something you can play with quietly and unobtrusively. It could be a pen, your ring, another piece of jewelry, or even a small rubber ball. Please, no twirling of hair or jingling of keys and coins in your pocket. This fidgeting works off excess energy and keeps your right brain (the trouble maker) occupied so your left brain can concentrate.
- Look the speaker directly in the eye. In other words, put your phone down. Nod now and then to show that you are listening. Stop them once in a while (don’t interrupt, hold up your hand in a stop motion) and repeat some of what they have said to make sure you understand. You can rephrase if you like. This ensures that you are hearing correctly, actually listening, and understanding. Plus it will reinforce this idea in your head so you are less likely to forget it.
- If you’re distracted by something, say so politely. “I’m sorry, that dinosaur over there completely distracted me. Can you please repeat that?” Or you can ask to move to a quieter place so that you can more fully pay attention.
- Take notes, if applicable. Your boss certainly wouldn’t object to you carrying around a small note pad and jotting down notes. This helps like a fidget.
This process is called active listening. It is a skill that can be learned with practice and perseverance. Give it a try.