Conversations seldom are.
For me at least, my mind is rarely present:
- My mind races to think of what point I want to make next
- I’m thinking about the lunch meeting that I’m having or just had
- I’m putting together the final pieces of a project
- My mind is on the email I received just before the meeting
- I need to respond to the text I just received
- My wife just called, should I check the voicemail? What if it’s urgent?
I’m perpetually distracted, and despite how much I convince myself that they won’t notice, they do. Conversations require listening, interest even. If rudeness alone doesn’t turn your head, efficiency should. Distraction leads to 20% lower performance and comprehension, which means both your conversation and the other task suffer.
Make the person sitting across from you feel like they are the only thing in the world that matters. Don’t be distracted, and you will earn trust, bring out the best in them, and probably accomplish something.
Try a few of these easy techniques to reduce distraction:
- Make eye contact
- Put your phone into DND mode (iOS 7 allows you to ignore interruptions and only receive notifications of “emergencies”)
- Close the door or go to a place where you won’t be interrupted
- Ask questions
- Take notes
- Listen with your body (nod, lean into the conversation, avoid being “closed”)
- Pause. Allow the exchanges to have room to breathe
- Avoid oneupmanship
Most importantly, practice active listening. In fact, as you practice, ask the other person, “do you feel like I heard you?” This simple question can not only garner some interesting feedback, it also shows that you care.
Image used via creative commons license from David President.