This phenomenon is not necessarily related to a lack of interest in the conversation in question or in the other person.
Just think that this has happened to our best friends and even our children. When they’re explaining that fun joke they played, to which we nod again with a vague “yes, yes” and a nod, but in the back of our minds something is happening like: “I think I forgot to put my boss in Cc in that email!”.
In fact, at many times, we seem to be in autopilot mode and are unable to be truly attentive to others.
The consequences for organizations are immense: identifying customer needs becomes almost impossible; the act of leading is done in a very careless way; bringing value to a team becomes rarer and redundant; managing time seems to be a Herculean task and our well-being never shows tranquillity and balance.
We can even understand that we are being more efficient when we pay for electricity at the same time as talking to a friend on the phone and playing with our children. Some will even understand that we are operating in a “multitasking logic”. But if you ask yourself what your friends or children have told you, you’ll probably come to the opposite conclusion.
In a nutshell, we can only say that when we can’t be genuinely attentive to others, our performance drops considerably.
It’s a scientific fact that we spend a significant part of our day (and life) out of present time, and we’ve all heard about it. The tools that can help us mitigate this have also become buzzwords.
What we don’t always hear is that being deeply attentive to others is also deeply tiring.
In fact, this is the main reason why our brains switch to autopilot mode whenever possible, resorting to long-term memory, where the tasks we can already “do without thinking” are stored (e.g. nodding and showing connection with someone else): to save energy.
As with other skills, this can also be trained: realizing that we’re on autopilot, stopping and paying attention – but it’s difficult and tiring.
Why not try it out right now and draw your own conclusions?
The exercise is simple: listen to a song and analyze its lyrics in detail, interpreting every word. As soon as you realize that you have been distracted from this task because your mind has wandered, record the time that has elapsed. Repeat with another song and try to go further, doing the process a third time. At the end of this exercise, how did you feel?
Many different answers for different people, I’m sure. But I’m sure that the next time you listen to these songs,
Nothing will remain the same.