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Listening to the “Little Voice”

the-whisperI was at lunch with my boss the other day

and she was talking about a presentation about listening to the “little voice” we all have.

Gosh, what do I want to eat? Do I want the cheesesteak or should I be good and get a salad?

Normally, when someone talks about listening to your “little voice” – or “inner voice” – it’s in the context of following your gut instinct. I did walk this morning. So doesn’t that mean I deserve some fries with lunch?

But in the case of this particular presentation, it was used differently. Where did our waiter run off to?

Little voice, little voice

The “little voice” being referenced was that voice in your head that distracts you from the conversation or presentation to which you’re supposed to be listening.

You know the voice I’m talking about… it’s the one that causes you to fixate on a grammar mistake someone made or wonder where someone got their hair cut or ponder why the presenter chose to wear that particular top which does not do her any favors.

Or, for many of us, it’s the voice making an internal “to do” list filled with the bills we have to pay, chores we need to do, and birthday gifts we still have to buy…

… and suddenly, we’ve missed the last 10 minutes of a conversation/presentation.

Needless to say, this particular “little voice” is not a good one. But it’s one that is also sooooo good at being a distraction.

Little voice, big noise

Despite my own mental wanderings that day about what I wanted to eat, I caught enough of the conversation to realize that I have a particularly LOUD “little voice.”

And it left me wondering: How much am I missing during meetings because I’m letting myself get distracted by the “little voice”? And if I were a small business owner, would something said during the time my “little voice” was spouting off be a crucial piece of information necessary to my landing a new client?

So how do you silence the “little voice”? Truthfully, I’m not sure.

We live in a multitasking culture that encourages – and, in fact, seems to reward – our doing more than one thing at a time.

As for me, I think it’s going to happen by good old-fashioned sheer force of will.

I have to will my “little voice” to shut up and take a break when I’m in meetings or talking with someone on the phone (and I may have to will my fingers to stop typing on the Blackberry while I’m at it).

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Image: Tebbé Davis via Flickr, Creative Commons

Robin Ferrier is the editor of What’s Next, Gen Y? and Communications Manager for the Johns Hopkins University Montgomery County Campus. She is also the President of the Capital Communicators Group and the co-chair of the Marketing Committee for the Tech Council of Maryland. She has inadvertently become a frequent career / professional / job hunt resource for friends and colleagues due to a career path that has included five jobs in 12 years.


    1. Some say that the best way to silence “distractions” during interpersonal communications is to go into the meeting or conversation with a notepad or electronic note taking system and actively take notes about things discussed that might be important to remember. When you do this, concentration shifts so largely on finding those things to take notes about that its hard to get distracted by all those “other things” surrounding the mind. In other words, the brain is actively searching for the important pieces of the interaction instead of nervously “seeking around” for a way out.

      Some say that this technique increases confidence during the interaction as well. Also, bringing notes created prior to the interaction, in case certain topics come up or specific questions are asked, even further enhances the ability to increase confidence levels during a conversation.

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