Are You Listening?

27 Sep

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 ( ) 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.


Posted by on September 27, 2012 in Blogs, Boise, Family, time management, writers, writing


Tags: , , , , , , , ,

18 responses to “Are You Listening?

  1. Clarissa Southwick

    September 27, 2012 at 7:00 AM

    Great advice, Mary. My grandmother always said the same thing about looking at people when you talk to them.

    • maryvine

      September 27, 2012 at 2:39 PM

      Clarissa-good, you learned that early.

  2. Janis McCurry

    September 27, 2012 at 7:05 AM

    My nephew has taught my family a lot about listening (and talking) because he is barely into the Asberger spectrum, which was diagnosed when he was six, if I remember. He’s graduated from college and is doing well, but what he taught us was to wait until we had his attention, make eye contact and be “completely” into the conversation. It’s wise to do that with everyone.

    • maryvine

      September 27, 2012 at 2:38 PM

      Yes, Janis, he has taught you something great.

  3. Judith Keim

    September 27, 2012 at 7:37 AM

    Good post! I sometimes find my mind skipping ahead to related things when people are talking and need to slow down and let their words play out. But I always look at people when they’re talking. It’s the polite thing to do and I see so much in other people’s eyes. Thanks for the reminder!

    • maryvine

      September 27, 2012 at 2:37 PM

      I hope to be better at looking in eyes, Judith. I just hope I don’t tune out when they do.

  4. Meredith Allen Conner

    September 27, 2012 at 7:46 AM

    Great post. I think we could all use this reminder to slow down and pay attention. My oldest daughter reminds me often to wait until she is finished before I say anything. And she is right. And I do.

    • maryvine

      September 27, 2012 at 2:36 PM

      Meredith-Sounds like your daughter has figured you out 🙂 Our family does, huh?

  5. Stephanie Berget

    September 27, 2012 at 9:53 AM

    Love this post. I’m guilty of all of these. Slow down, look at the speaker and listen. I’m going to put that on my wall. Thanks for the reminder

    • maryvine

      September 27, 2012 at 2:35 PM

      Glad it helped somebody else, Steph.

  6. lizkflahertyh

    September 27, 2012 at 8:09 PM

    Great post with good reminders. I’ve never yet said the wrong thing while I was listening! 🙂

    • maryvine

      September 27, 2012 at 9:41 PM

      Brilliant, Liz. Thanks!

  7. Peggy Staggs

    September 28, 2012 at 9:57 AM

    Great advice. I’m so bad. I do most of those things on the list. With my family if you don’t start talking three words before they quit you’ll never get heard. It’s hard keeping up with their fast brains.

    • maryvine

      September 28, 2012 at 7:22 PM

      I know I couldn’t keep up with your family, Peggy. I’d look up and the conversation would be over 🙂

  8. Susan Russo Anderson

    September 28, 2012 at 4:00 PM

    Absolutely a great reminder. Years ago when we used to give up things for lent I had a college professor tell us that instead of giving up candy, she decided to really listen during lent, and that easter she weighed herself and found she’d lost 14 pounds. Listening is a great diet!

    • maryvine

      September 28, 2012 at 5:18 PM

      Susan-what a great idea for lent! Looks like it worked for her in more ways than one.

  9. Marsha R. West

    September 28, 2012 at 5:05 PM

    I’d like to tweak # 8 just a bit. Certainly intentionally trying to outdo the other person isn’t good, but having something to share on the same or related subject is how a conversation goes forward. For folks who say they never know what to say, that can be a helpful tip.
    I make every effort to look at whoever is talking. If I’m “just” listening and not watching, too, I can get lost, drift off, lose interest. Thanks for reminders, Mary.

  10. maryvine

    September 28, 2012 at 7:20 PM

    Thanks, Marsha.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: