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This is one of a
series of brief Lesson-2 articles on how to respond
effectively to annoying social behavior. An effective response
occurs when you get your
primary needs met
well enough, and both people feel
offers perspective on "distraction," and options
for responding effectively to a distracted person. It
also includes useful responses if you are
It assumes you're familiar with...
Have you ever tried to have an important
conversation with someone who was significantly
distracted? How about when you were
distracted? Some ways of behaving in each
situation are more effective than others.
Premises - kids and adults communicate
with each other to fill current needs -
i.e. to lower current discomforts, or gain
pleasure).Their respective communication
mesh or clash,
depending on several factors Effective
communication occurs when each person feels
their needs are filled well enough, in a way
that feels good enough. Do you agree?
essentials for any important verbal
communication exchange are (a) to feel respected
by our partner/s and ourselves, and (b) to feel
heard well enough. A common block
to hearing is distraction - i.e.
when you and/or your partner can't stay focused
on a common topic because of environmental
and/or personal (mental-emotional) disturbances.
first step in responding effectively to this
situation is personal awareness of what's
happening now (a)
you and your partner,
and (c) around you both. A requisite for this
awareness is having your
Awareness discloses whether you or your partner
are unable to stay focused "too much."
Think of the last time you were with a
significantly-distracted adult or child. How
could you tell s/he was distracted? Common
little or no
steady eye contact
doing something else at the same time
impatience and/or discomfort with the
trying to change
the subject (refocusing)
expression of disinterest
unemotional, or no verbal responses
insincere expressions of interest
hard to disguise disinterest for long, because
most of us became experts at reading body and
facial language as kids, Do you agree?
Why don't people readily admit they're
Because they are...
unaware of it,
to admit it
ignorant of how
to express it
offending their partner and/or starting a
conflict, and/or they...
don't want to
admit where they're focused (e.g. on lust or
Can you think of
risks of not admitting or confronting
disinterest in important situations are
ineffective communication and possible
relationship and/or self-esteem damage.
Your options depend on who is distracted. Until
these become reflexive, mentally review...
you give me a hearing check / tell me what
you've heard me say?"
"Would you rather talk about this some
(If so, pick a specific
time to continue.)
"Am I doing
something that distracts you?"
comfortable with this topic?"
"When you don't
look at me, I feel uneasy / distracted /
disrespected / unheard."
"What do you
need from me right now?"
"What do you
think I need from you right now?"
would you most like to do right now?"
you now, your true Self, or 'someone else'
(a false self)?"
Responses to Avoid
"You have to
look at me when I'm talking!"
"Pay attention, will you?"
"(Name), am I boring you?"
(demeaning, if sarcastic)
"You are the original space cadet!"
(demeaning, unless humorous)
Response Options If
Again, responding well starts with
that you are distracted environmentally or
internally. This is most likely if your true
Self is guiding you.
specifically what you feel
now. Emotions are reliable pointers to what
Identify the unfilled emotional and/or
physical need/s causing your
distraction- e.g. "I need to turn
the TV off / check the roast / call Dad / go
to the bathroom / get some water / take an
aspirin / feed the animals / etc."
that (a) you're needs are as important as
your partner's if there's no emergency, and
that (b) pretending interest that you don't
feel is a lose-lose choice. Then say
I'm having trouble listening to you now. I'm
distracted by _________. Could we continue
after I (take some specific action)?"
excuse me? I need to __________ now."
(Name), I'm really distracted. Can I call
you back in 15 minutes?"
sum up? I'm running low on time."
the theme of these examples -
brevity, honesty, and directness - to shape
your own responses. Picture someone
you're distracted with. Then say these out
loud, and notice how you feel. For
response options if you'rebored, follow
by a false self may "resist" responses like
these. They may ignore you, complain, deny,
excuse, explain, get sarcastic, blame,
whine, go silent, etc.
Expect this normal reaction, and
affirm it with respectful
Then calmly repeat your original response
with steady eye contact. Repeat this
sequence until you get your needs met well
enough or your needs change.
Back away from these details, and compare these
examples to the way you're used to responding
to distractions. Are you motivated to try these
options and see what happens?
This is one of a series
of brief articles suggesting effective ways to
respond to common irritating social behaviors. This article offers perspective on
interpersonal distraction, and ways to
respond effectively to it in another person or
yourself. The ways are