Listening and Trust: Are You Losing your Ability to Connect?

I had my hearing tested the other day.

The examiner told me that with a minor low-end exception, my hearing was quite good—“excellent for my age,” she added (which brought me down off my temporary jolt of pride).

“But let me ask you, “ she said, “do you use a blackberry?”

“Yes—but what’s that got to do with my hearing?”

She explained, “I’ve been noticing a lot of people 40 and older who come in with concerns about their hearing. They test just fine.
But these are people who are in project management type jobs. They are constantly juggling between choices about where to place their attention. They all have blackberries, but that’s just a symbol. Their whole lives are about multi-tasking. ”

“And what’s happening,” she went on, “is that these people have lost the ability to pay attention for more than a few seconds. When the conversation requires more attention, they zone out, and lose connection.”

“When they zip back, a nano-second later, they realize they’ve missed something. And they blame their hearing. It’s not their hearing, it’s their multi-tasking.”

“So,” I asked, “are you telling me that the real A.D.D. problem is not in kids, but in adults?”

“It’s worse,” she said. "They’re losing the ability to connect."

The sensation of trusting someone can be driven many ways: one of the most powerful is the sense that the other person cares about us. And as a proxy for caring, most of us use “paying attention.”

If we cannot pay attention, others get the sense that we don’t care. And they don’t trust us. Why should they? We wouldn’t either.

Anyone listening?