Distraction Speaks Louder Than Words

You're distracted. Multi-tasking. Getting work done. You're trying hard to give everyone the attention they need. It's hard. If you're like me, being spread too thin leads to distracted focus.

Distraction speaks louder than words.

What Your Team Hears When You Can't Hear Them...

  • You are not that important to me
  • Others matter more
  • Your project is not my priority
  • Your project is not important
  • I don't respect your opinion
  • I don't really care about you
  • I'm not invested in your success

When we fake it, folks know. I learned a lot from the comments on my Effective Listening: Necessary But Not Sufficient post (click to read more).

Often, especially when things are busy, we make a judgment in a few seconds and wait politely for a break in the speaking to deliver it. The speaker generally senses any impatience on our part and either speaks faster, uses different words to say the same thing over, or both to ensure they have made their point. It can be a downward spiral from here, ending in both parties thinking they have just wasted their time. That’s a pretty negative outcome and these incidents can be stressful for both parties. Sometimes it can be more efficient to ‘give yourself’ to the conversation when you are the listener. We all know when someone isn’t really listening, so doing the basics of listening we have all learnt in workshops will help. - Dallas Dye

Or as another subscriber shared:

I'm a terrible technical listener: My kids know to say "blueberry pie" to get my attention and my teams know to catch my eye and make sure my hands have stopped before trying any sort of real communication.  So I've often asked myself, why do they still bother trying to talk to me at all?  I'm pretty sure the answer is: they know that I care about them as people and they know that their "voice" matters to me.  How we listen doesn't seem to be as important as how we act on what we hear - that speaks volumes!  - Eric

Beyond Distracted

If you're distracted, don't pretend. Teams see "distracted" and draw their own conclusions. Repeated distraction spurs even stronger conclusions. Some distraction-freeing starters:

  • "This sounds important.  I can't talk right now, but let's find a time when I can fully focus."
  • "Is there something that you need from me right now, or can I get back to you when I can give you my undivided attention?
  • "You sound really concerned about this.  I want to ensure I give you all the help you need.  Can we meet at 4pm?"
  • "I'm really pressed for time today. Can you summarize the main points and your suggestions in a few bullet points, so we can discuss later this afternoon" (this one works well for the ramblers)

Honor the relationship. Reassure importance and interest. And as Eric shares, act on what you hear. Your team will respect your approach, and likely come more prepared for a productive discussion.

How do you communicate you care amidst distraction?