Learning to Work Around “Spacing Out”


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

We’ve all had times when our mind goes off on a short walk-about as someone seems to go on and on and on.

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.

Awareness is a factor of ATTENTION

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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