Have you ever been a part of a conversation and at some point you realize that you have no idea what is being talked about? You’ve drifted off, your mind has wondered, you’ve begun to make a list of all of the things you need to be doing… This doesn’t necessarily mean that the conversation is boring, it’s just that you are not engaging!
For me, this happens mostly when I drive. I find that being in a car driving down the road is a great place to think, to process and to just clear my mind. My family realizes this sometimes, and they just stop talking to me because I’m not engaging in anything that they’re saying.
As I think about this today, I want to encourage you to learn to communicate in the present. This happens when we simply discipline ourselves to focus on whatever and whoever is in front of us. Communication is difficult enough without our bad habits of multi-tasking.
One of my biggest pet peeves is when I’m in the middle of a deep conversation with someone and their phone rings or they receive a text message and they immediately respond, while trying to keep the conversation going with me. Sometimes they’ll even laugh or respond verbally when reading a text, and I realize that I’m not being listened to.
I want to encourage you today to practice the art being engaged:
– When you’re in a conversation, be all there! Turn off your phone or ignore the constant chirping. I know that sometimes there are emergencies that come up, but explain that to the person you’re talking with. I will often tell someone I’m in a meeting with that I’m expecting an important call or message, simply to warn them that this may be coming. Of course, if I can ignore those messages until after our meeting, that is so much better.
– When you’re in a conversation and the other person isn’t engaging, ask them about it. Ask them nicely if you should reschedule your conversation. Ask them nicely to put their phone down. Be direct, don’t explode!
– Choose the right environment for important conversations. This might mean avoiding noisy restaurants or parks, it might mean sitting face to face instead of driving some place. Plan ahead for the best possible environment for that conversation that matters.
– Learn to be aware of signs coming from the other person. There’s nothing worse than pouring your heart out and not being heard. If you’re aware of what’s going on, you can initiate a change, you can ask them to engage, or you can reschedule. Learn to see the signs, they’re not easy to miss!
I’ve learned this the hard way and I’ve missed many important conversations that I’ll never get back.
Learn to be aware when you’re in a conversation. Learn to engage and to help others to engage. It will take communication to a whole new level!