#53 Divided AttentionJul 14, 2022
I was raised to look people in the eye when they're talking to you. I had wonderful role models of active listening- listening from a place of curiosity and engagement. My gramma and my mom both provided this for me. When I was telling them one of my RIVETING childhood stories, I felt like I was the most important person in the room. Well... unless General Hospital was on at gramma's, then no one was allowed to talk to her 😆 But she set that boundary- it was clear and we gave her space during that time. When "her programs" were over, we had her undivided attention.
A couple of weeks ago I hosted a "horse study group" of sorts at my place. It's a group of people I've known for many years and we were taking time to catch up. I also had Suede (the horse semi-responsible for A Learner's Journey happening) in the arena. I planned to show a couple of things I'd been learning with him. One of them being how powerful changing a thought can be. Here's a blog post that goes more in depth into some of the things I've learned from Charley Snell about this topic.
About 10 minutes into our catching up time, Suede was abandoned by the rest of the herd and left on his own in the arena. Typically, if I'm with him, this doesn't bother him. On this day, I had my back turned to him and was listening to Marlene share about what she was looking forward to. I decided to take a minute to show a couple of things- it was the perfect opportunity to demonstrate the power of changing a thought... I stepped into the arena with a flag (stick with a plastic bag attached) and made a bit of noise. This interrupted Suede's thought and he came right in to me. He'd changed his thought BUT he hadn't completely let go of the thought of the herd- so as soon as I turned my attention back to the group- his attention went back to the herd.
I was torn. Thinking it might take some time to have him completely let go, I tried haltering him and leading him to a place where I could sit and listen to Marlene, and then Tracey share. What ended up happening was super interesting- but NOT what I would do if I had it to do over again.
What ended up happening was my attention was completely divided. I was half listening to Tracey share and half focusing on trying to ask Suede to let the herd go and be with me.
I have a residual hang up (that I had when I was teaching regularly) that people won't want to sit and watch while I take the time it takes to help a horse- maybe 30 or more minutes... Even though I LOVE it when other instructors have done just that.
I didn't want to interrupt the group re-connecting and take time away from that, but if I could rewind the tape I would've made a choice between one or the other. Either bring Suede back to the herd and then give my full attention to the group OR ask everyone if they'd be up for experimenting and allowing me to give my full attention to Suede.
After everyone was done sharing, I returned to the arena with Suede. By the way- having him haltered didn't help him- it wasn't the feel of the line that he needed... As soon as I gave him my full attention- the change was pretty immediate. He relaxed. Then I would try to share with the group what I was seeing and this shift of my attention caused his tension level to come up. Tracey made a note of it.
What I realized after a bit of reflection was that my discomfort with the whole situation stemmed from my upbringing- that you give your full attention when you're listening. I wasn't doing that for the people sharing or for Suede and it felt really rude. I love that when I have things like this happen and I get to take the time to soak on it, I get a chance to come up with a plan for improvement.
Have you ever felt torn like this? Trying to give part of your attention to more than one thing and then ending up doing a mediocre job at 2 things instead of a great job at one? Warwick Schiller had some really interesting views on this in the recent interview I had with him. About how we'll overlook our horse needing our attention because we aren't wanting to be rude. This is such an interesting journey!!
The next time I'll choose differently. I'll set myself up to be able to listen fully and let whoever I'm listening to (horse or human) know they're the most important one in the room.