I’m Listening…Not!

Photo Credit: leontine via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: leontine via Compfight cc

“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?”
Husband: “1:45.”

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 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.

Everything is perfect

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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?

8 thoughts on “I’m Listening…Not!

  1. I think more people would really listen if the person or group of people you’re with would only talk when having something to say of importance. For some reason allot of people are uncomfortable with silence. Especially when in a group. I’ll never understand why there always has to be conversation all the time. I always feel that truely being comfortable with others is being able to say nothing. Not all the time, of course, but just to talk to be talking is wasting time. NO ONE LISTENS. Like the saying, “if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all”. “If you don’t have anything to say that is of interest to others, shut up, be quiet, enjoy the silence.” Jane Doe

  2. Hi Kelly! I LOVE that word–nonpresentitis! I have the SAME exact problem. I never thought about it in this way but you are so right that much of my own “hearing” problem is exactly the same. Unfortunately I think it’s evolved into an epidemic because many of the people I know (my husband included!) fall have many of the same symptoms. Just the other day we were both saying to one another that we had so many balls going in the air that we were having a difficult just staying put with one thought. Fortunately we do meditate so you can only IMAGINE how messed up we’d be without that. Now I have to go check out your “take a knee” technique to see if that might help too. Thanks! ~Kathy
    Kathy @ SMART Living 365.com recently posted…Nine Simple & SMART Ways To Say NoMy Profile

    1. I’ve often thought of meditating myself, Kathy, but honestly I don’t know if I could do it. Shutting my mind off is something I’ve not quite mastered and I don’t have the first clue how to teach myself how to do it. If you know of any good resources you could refer me to, I’d be ever so grateful! Thanks for reading/commenting!

      1. Hi Kelly! Yes it does take discipline to do meditation. In fact, although that word isn’t popular–and I’m the first one to resist it–that’s one of the biggest habit it teaches. Because I’ve been doing it so long I now KNOW that I can turn my mind off. And when I wake up in the middle of the night with something running crazily through my mind, I KNOW that I can turn it off. Trust me, it is worth learning and does keep you present! How to do it? There are literally at least a dozen ways to do it, but you might start with a classic book like “How To Meditate” by Lawrence LeShan. (that’s where I first read about it) but there are dozens of others out there. Just keep in mind it is the “doing” not the how that is most important. Hope that helps! ~Kathy
        Kathy @ SMART Living 365.com recently posted…7 Traps We Use To Imprison Ourselves and How To Get FreeMy Profile

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