The other day I was in a training seminar when I noticed a few fellow students (about a generation younger than me) texting on their handheld mobile devices while the presenter was talking. After a about 30 minutes of this I had enough. I interrupted the presenter and challenged the texters by claiming that it is impossible to intently listen while doing whatever they were doing on their Crackberrys. They claimed that they could and they do it all the time. I belive that multitasking and listening to one person is impossible.
In the work that I do interviewing people at LifeStories Alive http://tinyurl.com/3xc55lo , I know I must intently listen with my whole mind and body in order to know and follow what the interviewee is saying and feeling. My young counterparts in the class I mentioned above claim that I’m just old and they have the skills to accomplish the task (or multitask). After viewing the PBS video Distracted By Everything http://tinyurl.com/yapdjhs , I believe the students truly think they can pay attention while multitasking, but what they are really doing are a few things all not very well, all at the same time.
I know I cannot change the trends of the younger generation and their multitasking. But I can ask that others to simply respect a speaker by not being distracted with other tasks. Empathy is a great motivator. I’ve been in front of a group and know when individuals in the group are not paying attention. It hurts. Texting or looking at something else shows lack of interest and, more importantly, lack of respect. While it’s tough to stay focused and pay attention to someone else talking, I think it’s the only way to learn.
P.S. How many of you readers checked an email or did something else while reading this? Oh, forget it…I’ll never know!