The other day, I stood behind a woman in Starbucks. She was seemingly talking to the barista behind the register but upon further examination, she was actually on the phone. The barista politely asked the woman to repeat her order and she snapped back, “Weren’t you listening?” I believe she was, considering she was not the one having a separate conversation on her Bluetooth.
Can you multitask? That is, can you carry a conversation while still working on your iPhone? Can you text your friend while nodding at the person sitting across from you? Perhaps the question is not can you but should you. Think about the message you project: “You are not important enough to have my undivided attention.” Or put more simply, “I’m not listening to you.”
It seems that we are losing the ability to listen. Sure, we can communicate in myriad ways. Send a text to a family member. Write an email to a client. Instant message with a colleague. These forms of communication are all bite-sized for efficiency. But we lose the nuance of the two-way conversation. Eye contact. Body language. The tone of your voice. A hand gesture, in some cases. These cues all make up the subtext of speech. And it is the only way to truly understand what someone is telling you. Really telling you.
The next time you have a meeting, be it one on one or in a group, think about how you can be a better listener. It is a skill often abandoned in this age of technology. Try to focus solely on who is speaking. Because the second you grab your phone to send off a quick text message, you have missed out on the most important part of the conversation: what’s not being said.