Try throwing a ball with your right and left hand simultaneously with equal force. Now try to talk and listen at the same time. Unless your powers of coordination are extraordinary, both of these tasks will be awkward if not totally ineffective.
Some neuroscientists go so far as to say our brains are incapable of doing two things at once. One will always lead the other in rapid succession. Our attention simply shifts from one movement to the next. It’s no different in our modern world when someone says, “I’m multi-tasking.” The truth is, they’re doing nothing of the sort. They are doing one thing, and then shifting to the other, diminishing their capacity to do them both equally well.
The lure of multitasking is strong…but single-tasking ends up helping you accomplish more, more effectively. In fact, the Harvard Business Review reported efficiency is reduced by 40 percent when we’re multitasking. Similar tenets apply to speech communication. While listening to a speech, our minds lose their grip on one idea the moment our attention is diverted to another.
Or, when it comes to everyday interaction, we can become focused on what we want to say in a conversation that while we’ll allow the other person to speak, we’re not listening to them at all…instead waiting for the next break in conversation to blurt out what you’ve been holding onto in your mind, even if it doesn’t directly address what was just said.
It’s hard not to do though…how do you make sure you’ll have the right reply in a conversation? Or, what if you go “off-script” in a presentation? Many public speakers lose the attention of their listeners because they say one thing while trying to formulate the next. Their concentration trails off, causing them to start out strong, only to continue with a weak, wavering follow-up thought. Like the tail of a comet, the force and appeal of their ideas begin to slowly diminish.
Allow yourself to stay present and be in the moment. In conversation respond authentically. Sure, you’ll need to be prepared prior to presentations or events, but when you are speaking one sentence, don’t think about what follows. It’s the difference between expository and persuasive speaking. The former merely informs; the later goes far beyond! In other words, focus all your concentration on SPEAKING in the moment. Don’t try to anticipate.