Updated: Jun 17, 2019
Most people have been in contact with kids, teens and young adults that have a Short Attention Span. They are so preoccupied with their friends, outside activities, and especially their smartphones. While you think you’re talking to them and they say “okay, yeah” and “sure sure”, you notice that they’re not even talking to you but are too involved with their smartphones. How does one get their attention? What kind of sound or communication must you use to get these kids’ undivided attention?
Now that I’m a bit older, I can recall when I was in high school, the teachers trying to get my attention. It was similar to these kids but my interaction back to them was being more preoccupied with keeping myself at a distance. I wasn’t ignoring anyone, but I had a major fear of saying the wrong thing. For example, when I had to get up in front of the class or answer a question because everyone had to answer at least one question within the time frame of the class, I would panic to the point of being silent. Why? I don’t know. I had the answer, the correct answer to the question, but the words would not come out exactly (XZAKLEE) the way I wanted them to. In my own mind, I thought I was communicating it perfectly or exactly (XZAKLEE) the way I thought the other person wanted to hear it. To my surprise, they would twist their face to the point where I was sure they were confused with my answer. Then when I tried to explain it more clearly, it just became more jumbled. What could I do?
When my mom attended class to observe my progress, she would jump in at the exact moment and interpret for me, to save face, not only for me, but for the other person(s). Her best intentions were for me to get through the conversation and hope that there would be many more conversations with those teachers and students. I thought this was normal. It was great to have her around to have my back.
Obviously, my mom could not attend class all the time nor did I want her there! So I decided, after a little research, that I had selective hearing. Not really understanding what it was at the time, I thought it was the best diagnosis, by myself, to let others know this was my condition and hoped that they would accept my explanation of why I did not always answer the questions. The definition of selective auditory attention or selective hearing is “a type of selective attention and involves the auditory system of the nervous system. Selective hearing is characterized as the action in which people focus their attention on a specific source of a sound or spoken words,” according to Google.
To make matters more complicated, when I listened to someone explain a basic task or something that I had already heard several times, what I heard was not only them talking in the background, but this other voice in my head talking to me as well simultaneously. It usually tells me things like “What is he/she chattering about?” and “Why can’t you just get to the point already?”. Then in a split second, I missed out on some important information that they just said because I drifted off to another conversation (in my head). It looked like I was ignoring the other person by closing my eyes and even worse and to my embarrassment, possibly bobbing my head up and down appearing asleep. Oh my gosh, how did I get myself into this situation and how do I get myself back into listening to whatever they just said because I missed it for just a mere moment? Then while I’m thinking about what just happened, I missed the next part of what ever was just being said. I felt like Steve Urkel saying “Did I do that?”
I felt like I already zoned out to that conversation and felt like I had to start over. That means now I would have to wait until the class was over and go talk to the teacher asking him/her that I missed out on what was just said even though I was listening in class (selective hearing). To add to the confusion, my nerves would be frayed and my anxiety level would skyrocket. The thought of having to talk to the teacher (again) was unbearable and sometimes I would just leave class and go home to talk to my parents. Once again, I decided to research my condition and I came up with a new diagnosis called “selective mutism” which means: “A complex childhood anxiety disorder characterized by a child's inability to speak and communicate effectively in select social settings, such as school. These children are able to speak and communicate in settings where they are comfortable, secure, and relaxed” (Google). Whether or not I was wrong with my current diagnosis, it certainly made me feel better. I did not go to a doctor but I just thought that worked for me at the time.
One solution I had to overcoming this kind of behavior was to associate certain television sitcoms that were also similar to conversations I might need to engage in that were acceptable to the general public (i.e., High School). For instance, lets take “The Big Bang Theory”. In the episode called “The Extract Obliteration”, Sheldon is absorbed with himself in his own conversation about Stephen Hawking as Leonard walks in talking to Sheldon about the problem he’s having thinking that Sheldon is listening to him. Even though Sheldon is not listening, he keeps talking and eventually realizes that Sheldon did not seem to care what Leonard had to say (typical of Sheldon). Then Leonard attempts to balance the conversation with a technique called the “Chess Clock Conversation” where each person will push the button on there side of the chess clock to speak for 5 minutes about their situation and asking for a solution from the other person. Of course, Sheldon attempts to just make nearly the whole conversation about himself ignoring Leonard’s situation or any advice he could offer accept for short quips until finally Leonard gives up and Sheldon doesn’t even care (unless it was just about him). Even though this is a funny sketch, it depicts how one can be so absorbed in what they are thinking and doing that they fail to communicate with their friend or significant other and things can go very wrong or there is a major misunderstanding.
After some reflection, I hope that this did not appear to be me in just about any conversations I had with anyone I was talking to because of the fact that the conversation they had with me did not have any sort of elements that me personally would see as interesting to my overall psyche. You may even say I sound selfish. But I am not. I was just misunderstood.
There are certain goals I want to achieve when I’m attending certain functions like Anime or any Comic-Cons. Since these are places where I can relate to certain people that have a lot of the same interests as I do, I am still very anxious in how to start a conversation and keep it going for about 10 minutes without appearing dull. Because the conversations I have with these new people I meet have a lot of the same elements, that me personally, have as well, I may be able to adapt to these conversations with ease. If any readers have any suggestions in assisting me to communicate with ease, please feel free to e-mail me and I will get back to you as soon as I can.
It is my hope that after I attend the next convention that I will be able to report to my followers that I have overcome this selective hearing/mutism and will be able to express my story in a positive light that others can easily understand. More importantly, they may be able to use these new techniques for themselves.