What I realized is that too much multitasking was going on and not enough listening, I mean really listening. I was becoming a robot without a memory chip. I was completing tasks but as one thing was in progress my mind was already on to the next thing and the thing after that and so on and so forth. It wasn’t that my mind was failing me; it was that I quit listening. I was able to remember people’s names and conversations, and so many other random things because I was an active listener. Being an intentional listener requires skill, you must look a person in the eyes and hear what they’re saying, and not just bits and pieces but every word, your attention mustn’t stray to the person passing by (and as a writer I’m a people watcher so this is often difficult), you must stop what you’re doing and simply pay attention to the person engaging with you. Take the fingers off the keyboard, look up, smile and listen. Obviously, you can’t do this if you’re on the phone with someone, but what you can do is close your eyes and, you guessed it, listen. Sorry, but that lovely message you were about to post on Facebook or Tweet will just have to wait. I’m incredibly guilty of talking on the phone while engaging on social media. Do you think I’m listening to the voice on the end of the line? I think I am, but the truth has been revealed to me. Remember my pal who pointed out, “You told me.” Well, she also informed me that I had forgotten what she had said. “I told you that! Don’t you remember?” How embarrassing.
Here’s something else I’m learning to avoid so that I can become a more active listener again. I’ve had the same job in the financial services industry for almost fifteen years now. I’m able to anticipate a lot of clients' needs before they even ask for help. It’s a great assist but also a bit detrimental. Because I’m anticipating the question, I’m already accessing the person’s account and searching for the answer when the question hasn’t even been asked. While doing that, my mind is already trying to anticipate where the conversation is going next. All in the name of efficiency I say, but I am forcing myself to slow down and listen.
Shall we talk about the elephant in the room? Social media and the Internet. Ooops, I guess there are two. Both of these beasts inhibit my ability to listen and retain information. Twitter has been my guilty pleasure. What I instantly loved about the platform was that it was only 145 characters. You can read a lot of tweets at that limit. When they increased the character limit to 280, I wanted to cry. Here’s the thing about Twitter at 145 characters- it made us better writers. Get your message out and don’t forget a snappy call to action! Read my book, Download today, Discover your next thriller here, Got books?, PreOrder available, or Signup for my newsletter! I think you get the message. Author confession: I am guilty of using up those additional characters! Not all of the time, but most of it. Facebook has taken me some time to get accustomed to. I’ve never really understood this “check-in” thing. If I “check in” when I’m at dinner, a party, on vacation, an event, or anywhere else I’m not really living in the moment and I’m not listening to anyone for sure. Despite being a multi-tasker, I find it very hard to listen to a conversation let alone converse if I’m posting on social media. For the record, I’m also on Instagram. All of this socializing keeps my mind and memory adrift. Now, I know some of you kindly people are going to share some tips on how to post with efficiency and please feel free, but I’m gonna argue that you’re still taking me out of the moment and inhibiting my active listening. What happens when you’re on social media, well a lot, but how about those pop-up ads just for you? So while my friend is chatting away on the phone, I’ve clicked on the latest ad to buy another Cleveland Browns t-shirt, Dooney and Bourke handbag, bracelet from Kendra Scott, hand lotion from L’Occitane, and I’ve just checked the “going” icon for the next walk to benefit the American Cancer Society. Sound familiar? Hey, are you with me? Stop letting all those pop-up ads distract you from this riveting read.
Here’s the one thing that keeps me in the moment. Writing. Nothing can distract me when my fingers hit the keyboard and a story takes flight. I am one with this new place and people. With each word I type, my mind, heart, and soul become absorbed in the emerging plotlines, characters, and dead bodies. Oh, did I mention I write serial killer thrillers? One minute I’m hunting the bad guy, and the next I am the bad guy. A freight train could barrel through the house and I’d still be sitting at my desk, fingers pecking away at the keyboard. Ads for FREE baubles and handbags, lotions and potions, t’s and shoes couldn’t drag me away from my WIP! Go away! I’m writing. Sorry, not sorry, but now’s not the time to approach me with anything using any form of communication because that message just ain’t gettin’ through. It’s actually kinda funny, because I could receive the most exciting news, and I’d be like, “That’s nice, but I’m really busy writing this book!” How sad considering I’m without a literary agent, publisher, and deadline. Well, that’s dedication for ya my friends.
So tell me, what distracts you from active listening and causes your memory to falter? What do you do to live in the moment? C’mon confess. It’ll feel good.
I’ll be right back after I share this on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Errr, and after I buy this…
MJ LaBeff is an award-winning American author best described as the girl-next-door with a dark side. MJ grew up in northeastern Ohio but traded snow for sunshine and moved to southern Arizona where she lives with her husband and three dogs. She’s drawn to writing suspense novels, featuring complicated characters and twisted plot lines that will keep readers turning page after page. When she’s not writing or plotting her next novel, MJ enjoys reading, running, lifting weights, and volunteering for the American Cancer Society. For more about the author and her books visit www.mjlabeff.com or friend her on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
Listen to MJ LaBeff's podcast episode here.