How tuned in are you?

Visiting some clients recently, I noticed something. I wonder if you’ve noticed this to? People are distracted.

In your everyday work, how tuned in are you to what’s happening around you, what people are saying and how others are behaving?

Most people we ask this question of would say – “I’m very aware of what’s happening around me!” Yet when we dig a little deeper, we soon find a slightly different story and most will then admit that maybe they aren’t really as tuned in as they thought (or pretended) they were!

Multitasking is a myth.

Research has shown that humans are not as good at multitasking as they think they are. In fact, neuroscience shows us that in most cases we are switching rapidly between tasks, not able to focus on any one thing while attending to another. And when we switch rapidly between our focus points, the question is, are we being productive?

Are we diving as deep as we could to make decisions? Are we really listening to what our team member is saying when we have one eye on our emails? Are we contributing effectively to a discussion when we are scrolling our news feed? Are we making connections when we are scanning the room for someone we know?

As a young employee, I found it incredibly frustrating when my manager was distracted in our discussions – waving at a senior colleague walking past the office, thanking someone for dropping in coffee. None of these things were BAD, I just didn’t feel that  I was truly being listened to. Or that what I had to say was valuable.

Do you help people feel valued?

How do you make your team feel when you are talking to them? Do you help them feel valued?

Oh, and ask yourself these questions as well…(pick all that apply!)

  • Did you realise that you were just checking your mobile phone in that meeting?
  • Did you see how others responded when you made that ‘joke’?
  • Did you understand what your boss just said to you?
  • Did you see the body language your colleague used when you popped in to their office?
  • Did you realise you just checked your phone again while we were talking?

A friend of mine visited the Dr last week. She came out of the consult annoyed. The Dr was running late. She had multiple issues to discuss. His phone rang. His computer pinged. He took notes while she talked. He faced the computer. He didn’t look at her for 5 minutes. She decided not to tell him about the other things bothering her and she wrapped up the consult as fast as she could.

She understood. He was busy. Drs are. She still felt ignored. Felt like she had somehow been an imposition into his day. An annoyance.

Yes, she could have discussed all she was there for. Yes, he would have looked at her eventually, I’m sure. Yet what else could he have done to hep her feel comfortable and that she mattered. He isn’t a bad person. He’s just busy. AND DISTRACTED.

Distraction has consequence.

Modern life is busy. Actually for some it feels a bit chaotic. So we often are too tired, too busy or even (should we say it…?) self-absorbed to truly tune in to what people are saying or doing most of the time.

Yet many don’t realise the significant impacts of not tuning in.

  • Others may actually think you’re rude. Do you check your phone during meetings? This is a classic example of where you might be tuning out and at the same time could be leaving people with the impression that you are rude and disrespectful. Even if you think you are still listening – here’s some big news…you’re not.
  • You may just miss out on important information. When you tune out, whether to check your phone, to think about your to-do list, or simply to day-dream, your brain is not accurately receiving all of the information around you. And sometimes that’s completely ok. Sometimes it’s not – you may miss information to help you at work, a family member’s story, or even important signals that could save your life.
  • Building and maintaining relationships just got harder. Despite our busy world, humans are still fundamentally designed to be social and make connections. In the workplace, healthy relationships can lead to better productivity, better engagement and even to better stress management. So if we are consistently not tuning in, and others notice this, we could be destroying trust, credibility, respect and ultimately damaging relationships.
  • Your decision-making might be impaired. We may not be processing and weighing up information that we do hear or see.  Basically to make good decisions, we do need to be tuned in – taking-in information, asking questions, listening (not just pretending to), processing, analysing and deciding.
  • People you interact with may feel ignored or not valued. If you are a manager – how do you want your team to feel after they interact with you? I can almost guarantee that if they feel valued from their conversations with you, they will perform better, stay in the job longer, and collaborate more. Your team will grow and develop and perform to a high standard if they feel valued. They will not feel valued if you are not present.

So how do we develop better skills at tuning in? Well, it takes time, practice and genuine positive intent.

Small actions can help you tune in.

Here are a few tips to help you get started.

  • Turn off your phone in meetings. Better still, leave it in your bag or locker
  • Look at the person presenting/speaking with you
  • Truly focus on the words and body language others are using
  • Pause before you cut someone off in conversation
  • Ask questions – be curious! What can you learn from the conversation?
  • If your mind is wandering when it shouldn’t, take a deep breath – it does wonders to refocus you
  • Monitor how often you talk about yourself versus listening to others, or asking others questions
  • Evaluate the quality of your relationships and consider what else you can do to be more positively connected
  • Become a great observer – of people’s actions, words and even their environment (it’s amazing what you can learn about someone from the items on their work desk!)

Of course, these suggestions are based on common-sense and not particularly new concepts. The key though is being true to yourself – are you really tuning in to what’s happening around you, or are you only pretending?

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