Learning to Work Around “Spacing Out”
Monday, February 20, 2017 105 Comments
Honey, you’re not listening
ADDvanced Listening & Languaging
© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
from the Memory & Coaching Skills Series
Spacing out – when attention wanders
But that’s not the only arena where attention wanders off on its own.
Have you ever gone into another room only to wonder what you went there to do?
I’ll bet you have little to no awareness of where your attention went during your short trip to the other room, but if you’re like me (or most of my clients and students), you’ve sometimes wondered if doorways are embedded with some kind of Star Trekkian technology that wipes our minds clean on pass-through.
Has your mate ever said “Honey, I TOLD you I would be home late on Tuesday nights!” — when you honestly couldn’t remember ever hearing it before that very moment, or only dimly remember the conversation for the first time when it comes up again?
Most of the time, when that happens, we are so lost in our own thoughts, we have little to no awareness that we spaced out while someone was speaking to us.
What do you do DO on those occasions where you suddenly realize that you have been hearing but not really listening?
Don’t you tend to attempt to fill in the gaps, silently praying that anything important will be repeated? I know I do.
It is a rare individual who has the guts to say, “I’m so sorry, I got distracted. Could you repeat every single word you just said?”
And how likely are you to ask for clarification once you are listening once more?
- If you’re like most people, you probably assume that the reason you are slow to understand is because you missed the explanatory words during your “brain blip.”
- If the conversation concludes with, “Call me if you have any problems,” I’ll bet you don’t reply, “With what?!”
That’s what the person with attending deficits or an exceptionally busy brain goes through in almost every single interchange, unless they learn how to attend or the person speaking learns how to talk so people listen.
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Awareness is indeed a factor of attention
In order to act on something, one must remember that it occurred, recalling a great enough number of the event’s details that it is possible to follow up with action.
In order to remember something, it must have been registered —
in a manner that is retrievable on demand, following specific prompts.
Comprehensively trained, brain-based ADD Coaches have learned that, to work with attention deficits and distracted minds, the speakers must be able to talk to their clients in a way that the clients can hear and link for retrieval.
They must learn to be able to listen for the often subtle clues that tell him or her where it is essential to employ specific language skills – a skill the coaching field often refers to as “languaging.”
Brain-based ADD Coach Training could also be called
ADDvanced Listening & Languaging.
This article, which will be broken into parts and posted as a Series, will share several things with anyone reading, most of which you will probably not come across outside a comprehensive coach training curriculum, including:
- Some coaching concepts designed to increase your listening skills;
- Some concepts that will increase your understanding of the memory and retrieval process; and
- Some techniques to seed a shift in your languaging skills that will increase your likelihood of being heard — by ALL of the people in your own busy lives. Let’s start there.
What will NEVER work
Our brains have developed to protect us from danger. Words or tones of censure are interpreted as danger.
Nagging and complaining can only be perceived as signs of displeasure. Way back in our genetic history, the repeated displeasure of the tribe led to ostracism.
In those predatory cave days, being out on our own usually meant death. We begin almost immediately to mount a defense – NOT to apologize and listen-up.
Repeated after-the-fact bitchin’ and moaning is more likely to increase the very behavior you hope to see less of: tuning you out.
The brain – unconsciously – reacts to further information from complainers more like, “Here it comes again – run and hide,” even in the face of conscious attempts to pay closer attention in order to change what seems to always come next. Brain-based, by the way.
Addressing current events
Because I am aware of some brain-based realities that many misunderstand or don’t know about, I’m hoping to offer some information that will prove helpful as we speak to each other in the days, weeks and months to come.
It is also why I am greatly concerned about articles sprinkled around the ‘net ranting and raving at Americans who voted for our current president and continue to support him, despite his ongoing actions.
It won’t work.
As commenter Tommy put forward in response to the article from PsychCentral (linked below), politics are breeding grounds for cognitive dissonance. Once we develop strong beliefs in our candidates, even if they later exhibit signs that contradict why we supported them in the first place, we continue to support our original choices.
We are unconsciously attempting to eliminating the dissonance created by the conflict between what we once believed to be true and the behaviors and actions that follow.
What’s more, we reinforce our decisions by reading or listening only to informational sources that won’t compete with our positive views of our candidates, reinforcing and increasing our confidence in those views. (For example, he writes, democrats are likely to watch MSNBC but avoid watching FOX, while the opposite is probably true for republicans).
HOWEVER, if you, too, are desperate to turn things around, not merely to rant about events as they have turned out (which I certainly cannot accept either) – we all simply must simmer down and stop making each other wrong. We have to find a way to work together on those things about which we CAN agree.
Related Post: Why we hate to change our minds
And we hope and pray that those of you who live outside our borders will stand WITH us, not against us.
For that reason I feel strongly that I must always object to anything divisive when I come across it, even though I realize I am but one small voice in a wilderness of shame.
So, as I work my way through further explanations and offer some suggestions designed primarily toward more effective communication in our personal relationships, please keep it in mind that censure and shame is NOT a technique that will change much of anything anywhere else either.
Not even a little bit.
YOU may feel better for ranting, but if you join me in my desire is to see things change for the better, make-wrong is NOT the way to go about it. It will almost always backfire — evidence based, backed-up through many experiments over many years, and explained briefly in a prior post.
I don’t personalize contentious comments, but many will, and that’s the problem.
If we are to put a halt to what’s happening and really “make America great again,” we need increasingly more Americans to stand up and fight with us, NOT to be put on the defensive about what they can no longer change, reacting out of brain-based feelings that they must continue to defend their actions and agendas because they’re under attack.
You can’t make me believe I am WRONG!!
Most of us hate it when our beliefs are challenged. Once we are invested in a decision or opinion, we tend to resist changing our minds – no matter who we are or how open-minded we like to believe we are being.
When someone presents evidence that does not support or agree with something that we believe, we will feel an uncomfortable – and unconscious – state of dissonance. Immediately, we will be strongly motivated to reduce it.
The easiest, quickest way that most of us attempt to handle that hateful conflict between old information and new is to dig in and defend our current beliefs.
Looking at the Science
In Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts, she covers two essential concepts: confirmation bias and cognitive dissonance.
We now have over 3,000 studies on aspects of dissonance — cognitive, social, emotional and neurological — that show us just how uncomfortable it is for the brain to be confronted with dissonant information, and what we are likely to DO about it.
Tavris explains that our unconscious drive to reduce cognitive dissonance between conflicting thoughts is so strong that we are most likely to close our minds to updated information that could help us make significantly better choices in the future.
For example, the conflict between “I am an educated, compassionate person of expertise” and “I hold a belief (or committed an action) that might make it seem as if I am not” is a sure bet to result in cognitive dissonance.
Apparently, according to Tavris, in our evolutionary history it has proven more adaptive, more beneficial, to come up with a set of beliefs that guide our behavior and bind us to a community in advance, so we don’t have to stop and question our decisions each moment of our days.
So, once we have a belief system in place it, essentially, does our thinking for us.
Tavris goes on to remind us that there are brain-based benefits to justifying our actions after the fact: it reduces the anxiety of second-guessing as it allows us to continue thinking of ourselves as good, competent, intelligent people who know what we’re doing and are safe in our environments.
Don’t Make People Wrong
Understanding the concept of cognitive dissonance helps us understand why, when we are speaking with somebody who holds different views, it is important NOT to put them into a state of dissonance.
If we make somebody feel stupid for a belief they hold or for an action they took, it is practically guaranteed they’re not going to listen to our wonderful words of wisdom. They’re going to cling all the more tightly to their justifications for whatever they said or did.
Because what’s the alternative: admitting that they did something stupid or foolish? No one wants to believe that they’ve been stupid!
We can also learn to remind ourselves to think in different manner about our own oopses and missteps: When I, a well-intended, competent person, do something that wasn’t representative, I remain a good person, but the thing I did needs to be rethought.
So hold this in mind as you are debating what’s right for this country – or any other. It’s also STEP ONE when trying to get your Beloveds to pay attention to what you say.
I hope you’ll STAY TUNED for the remainder of the articles in this Series.
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