“I’m sorry, what did you say?”
That phrase comes out of my mouth as often as I’d like to stuff Ben & Jerry’s into it, which is multiple times per day.
I am a horrible listener. That’s supposed to be a guy thing, right? Well, somehow I got the male auditory chromosome.
Here’s a typical conversation between my husband and me:
Me: “What time’s your doctor appointment?”
Me (15 minutes later): “What time’s your doctor’s appointment?”
Husband: *glares at me while poking his tongue out the side of his slightly opened mouth*
I know the key to being a good listener is attentiveness. I seem to have no problem paying attention to the words that come out of my mouth—I hear myself asking the questions just fine.
But something happens from the time I stop speaking and the other person starts. It’s like a door or flap to my ears snaps shut, like the blue velvet box Richard Gere holds out to Julia Roberts in “Pretty Woman.”
So what the hell’s going on?
My mom used to do the same thing. I worked with her for a few years in a doctor’s office when I was in college. Multiple times per days, either at home or at work, she’d ask me the same question over and over. It drove me nuts. I started writing things down for her, like my school and work schedule, but it didn’t help.
Imagine how horrible I felt, and how relieved she did, when she was diagnosed with ADD in her forties. I remember her crying when she got her test results. “All my life I thought I was stupid. Now I know why,” she said.
I do have trouble focusing on one thing for more than a few minutes at a time. My mind flits from one thought to another like a hummingbird at a feeder. But I don’t think that’s ADD.
Am I selfish? Do I care more about what I say than what other people say? Man, I hope not, because I said in a previous post that I was more grateful and less selfish now than I’ve ever been. Maybe “hypocrite” is a more apt word.
The thing is I’m an awesome reader and responder. When people comment on my blog, email me or otherwise reach across the internets, I read and respond. The tag line for my comment box is “I’m listening. Let me hear you.”
I just have a problem when words attempt to enter my ears.
I found a bunch of articles online that identified different reasons people don’t listen; for example, planning what you’re going to say in response, comparing yourself to the person speaking, or trying to figure out what’s really behind what the person is saying.
Most of the time, it feels like my brain just shuts off—it’s one of the rare times, outside of when I’m asleep, that I don’t think of anything.
I think I’ve figured out what’s wrong.
I have nonpresentitis: (n.) the inability to live in the present
When thoughts are racing around my mind like ponies on a souped up carousel I’m rarely thinking about the current moment. I’m either running toward the future, which usually involves imagining the awful things that are going to happen, or lugging myself into the past, which invariably includes berating myself for the awful things I’ve done.
Usually when my mind time travels, I’m able to bring it back to the present using this cool technique called “take a knee.” But I don’t think the people I’m talking to would appreciate me dropping to the floor in the middle of our conversation—they might think I was about to propose or something.
Sweet Nancy on a jungle gym, I think I’ve got it!
If I truly listen, if I really pay attention to what the person is saying, then I can’t be anywhere but the present. Improving my listening skills could help keep me focused on the here and now.
Because two birds.
So, what about you? Do you have trouble listening or paying attention, and how does it manifest for you? What about any other “cute” quirks that drive your friends and family insane? How well are you at living in the present, and how do you keep yourself grounded in the now?