Who remembers Walt Disney’s Absent-Minded Professor, starring Fred McMurray? Jerry Lewis and Eddie Murphy also played similar roles. An absent-minded character can add a lot to a story, even some humor, but in real life? Not so much.
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia defines absent-mindedness as follows:
Absent-mindedness is where a person shows inattentive or forgetful behavior. It can have three different causes:
A low level of attention (“blanking” or “zoning out”); Intense attention to a single object of focus (hyperfocus) that makes a person oblivious to events around him or her; or unwarranted distraction of attention from the object of focus by irrelevant thoughts or environmental events.
Did you know there is an International Listening Association and certified listening professionals? Neither did I, until I searched the World Wide Web. You may ask why I’m studying listening.
I listen at work. My employer pays me to. I’m not the world’s best listener at home, yet I don’t think I fall into the category of absent-minded, except for inattentiveness when I want to focus on something else. Writing maybe? After the day job it is hard to carve out writing time. You will also need time for marketing.
Do you ever find yourself falling into any of these habits around family members?
1. Interrupting the speaker.
2. Not looking at the speaker.
3. Rushing the speaker and making him feel that he’s wasting the listener’s time.
4. Showing interest in something other than the conversation.
5. Getting ahead of the speaker and finishing her thoughts.
6. Not responding to the speaker’s requests.
7. Saying, “Yes, but . . .,” as if the listener has made up his mind.
8. Topping the speaker’s story with “That reminds me. . .” or “That’s nothing, let me tell you about. . .”
9. Forgetting what was talked about previously.
10. Asking too many questions about details. (Larry Barker & Kittie Watson, Listen Up)
Stop faking attention (nodding maybe?); Stop tolerating or creating distractions; Stop tuning out difficult words or uninteresting subject manner. Nichols, R. G. and L. A. Stevens (1957). Are you listening? New York, McGraw-Hill, is a good reference.
From WikiHow How to Listen (http://www.wikihow.com/Listen ) I learned to remove distractions and tune in. Turn off the television or the radio and put down anything else you are reading or doing. Pay attention. Of course pay attention, but let’s take it a step further by listening to one thing at a time. No multi-tasking. Don’t think about what you will say next. Are you noticing the other person’s body language? You have to look at them for this. And (Mary!) stop thinking too much, just pay attention.
I believe my best advice came from a friend who has a teenage son with Asperger Syndrome. He told her, “Don’t you know that I don’t hear you if I’m not looking at you?”
In the long run it’s more important to have quality time with your loved ones. How much time is up to you. Keep your absent-minded characters in your book, writer.