goal one: be a better listener

I am going to go ahead and start off this post by admitting that I am a horrible listener. Not to my friends, or to my coworkers, or to my students, but to my family, and a lot of the time, to Zan.

It’s not that I don’t care (I do), or that I’m bored (I’m not), I’m just distracted.

That’s it, I said it.

I’m distracted.

Distracted by my phone and by twitter and by instagram– by this silly little online world that I actually REALLY ADORE. Which is, in all honestly, the hard part. I feel a sense of community and friendship here that I miss about high school and college. Girlfriends and inside jokes and witty banter all day everyday everysinglesecond.

I’m an extrovert, so I think I crave this social time, which in some ways makes social media really great, and in other ways (ahem, working on my listening skills) makes it really not so great.

But, my real life relationships are more important than my online ones and I KNOW THAT. I absolutely do.

It’s funny, because when I’m out with friends I usually don’t touch my phone. I’m present and looking and listening. But somehow, when I’m with Zan, or my sister, or my parents, the phone makes it’s way out into the open, more times than I’d like to admit. It’s annoying, and to be honest, it’s not fair.

I’ve decided it’s because I’m taking these people for granted. I’m assuming because I see them all the time, or because they know me the best, that they won’t mind. That we have hours, days, years of time together, that just one peak at my twitter feed or my instagram likes won’t matter in the long run.

But I’ve realized that this is not okay. Not to the extent that I’m doing it anyways. Because these people are actually the people who I want to spend the MOST time with. Make the most memories with. Keep the most sacred in my heart of hearts.

I don’t know at which point I realized it’s a real problem for me.

Maybe it’s my sister telling me over and over again that I’m not listening.

Maybe it’s the (loads) of times that I’ve had to ask  Zan to repeat himself when he’s telling me about his day, or a story, or his weekend away.

I think the first step is realizing you have a problem. And then the next step is working to fix it. I know what my problem is, and so I’ll work on fixing it this year. Or at least work to make it better. The path to the solution is going to have to start at home (where the problem is the biggest)– here in the walls of my house, at the end of the day.

My goals for being a better listener are simple:

1. Computer time after work only, before Zan gets home (or if he’s working late).

2. Put the phone away, on the charger, or out of sight when in the house (and out on the town).

3. Be present– listen harder, think deeper, respond more genuinely.

Simple, but hard. So I’ll just need to keep reminding myself this: my relationships with my favorite people are what’s most important, everything else can wait.

If I don’t finish a post, it’ll just have to get done another day.

And if I’m not tweeting gibberish as often, now you’ll know why.


I’m ready to be more present and I’m ready to start listening.

It’s just a start, but I’m going to try.

I want to try.

I have to try.


{Read about my resolutions for 2013 here.}


  1. I know exactly what you mean – it can be so distracting to have Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Email, Pinterest, Etsy, EVERYTHING readily available and constantly grabbing at your attention. A few months ago I tried turning off my notifications (for things like Instagram + Twitter) so that way they weren’t popping up on my phone + trying to grab my attention. It helped a lot for those times I wanted to keep my phone around for texting my sisters, but didn’t want to go down the rabbit hole of checking ‘just one thing’. Good luck with your goals! I’m sure you’ll be actively listening in no time at all :) xo, eliza

    • Aha! Turning off notifications! Why didn’t I think of that? I already have the sound off, but I think I have to turn off the notifications all together. Less iPhone lighting up at me saying “look at me, look at me!” will be a good thing.

  2. UGHHHH I do this all the time to Craig :( Not so much my mom because she’d kick my ass and stop buying me nice things, but often Craig. And I feel bad. I might need to start implementing this too meep.

    • It’s so hard to not look at your phone isn’t it? But I hate that I’m on it all the time when I could be paying more attention to what’s right in front of me.

      Just something to think about at least. If anything, I just want to be aware more, you know?

  3. Hahaha, we talked about this after our SOWA trip that day, how it’s somehow okay to Instagram with blogger friends because we’re all doing it, but not good with family. It’s so hard to do..and yes, very distracting, especially with Instagrams notifications, they’re so gratifying!
    I suppose you could also try turning notifications off, that might help. I just noticed that Eliza suggested the same!
    I should probably do the same!

    • They are gratifying. But I have to remember, that although they are nice to see as they happen, they will be there later, too. So I guess I just need to learn to wait. Patience is a beautiful thing– and we’ve been trained with the iPhone to be all, “I want it NOW.”

      I am going to try the no notifications thing. Tonight!

  4. this is so EERY! was literally just having a talk with the manfriend last night about how we do the same thing. i always rationalize if i can’t talk to my brother for a solid 45 minutes (like i like to) i just won’t answer his call, but will return it later (bad idea: brother filson just gets crankypants). i couldn’t figure out why i answer at the drop of a hat for others and it’s because i KNOW my brother will always be there. but it shouldn’t work that way! so i answered his call yesterday immediately and it was weird how much better ya feel! i’m SO with you, soul sister.

    • Soul sisters. So right you are.

      I know, why do we do things so readily for some, but most often not for the most important? And when we do do nice things for the people we love most, WE FEEL SO GOOD INSIDE.

      Besides the listening thing, I’m working on being less selfish in general. So many things to work on, so little time!

  5. Anna, I have been feeling the exact same way recently! I post fun instagrams of what I’m doing, without really being PRESENT in the scene of the picture I just posted because I’m editing the photo first, checking my likes/comments, or browsing all that is social media.

    You are so, so right. Our real life relationships take a precedence over our online relationships. And anything online really can wait. It’ll still be there in a couple of hours. Thank you for acknowledging this and inspiring me to do the same!

    • Oh, editing. What a time sucker. Especially since I am such a picky instagrammer.

      I like how you said that things online can wait– you are so right. Everything will still be there when you come back to it– moments in a relationship are likely never to happen again! We need to remember this!

      Glad you’re working through this, too.

  6. Definitely a great thing to work on. I’m generally good about keeping my phone away (other than for taking some pictures, that I instagram later haha) when I’m actually out doing stuff with my bf. But when we’re back home I find myself doing the “uh huh….uh huh………wait, what?” routine fairly regularly. At this point, my bf laughs at it because he can be just as bad with his video games but it’s a good thing to think about and try to adjust.

    • Yeah, I started jumping on board the “latergram” train just a little while ago. It’s much less stressful and helpful to stay in the moment– even for those of us (ME!) that constantly love to share the little pieces of beauty around them.

      Also, Zan just got an iPhone, so sometimes he’s distracted too (which is bad and good), but it’s just really a habit I was to gain control of, instead of it controlling me.

  7. Yes! Mark and I were just talking about this last night. Behr has gotten in the habit of holding our faces with both hands and re-positioning us away from the TV, computer, ipad, or phone to look directly at him when he wants to talk to us.

    We both work from home a good deal, so we aren’t ignoring him to whittle away time online, (at least not all the time). But what a good reminder from a toddler to focus on the people present first?

    • Oh, Behr! I can just imagine him taking your face in his hands. So sweet, but yes, it’s definitely a reminder to focus harder on him, especially when he’s taking the time to tell you. I hear about moms struggling with this all the time– because you need that bit of social in your life, but you want to be all there for your kids, too.

      Hopefully I’ll have this figured out by the time I have kids of my own.

  8. Oh, Anna. I so get this. Distracted is my middle name. It affects me and Steve (although to be fair, he’s equally distracted) but the worst is with Tate. Poor baby Tate. I find myself constantly engaged in social media & Tate is sitting alone on the floor. It makes me feel like the worst mom ever. I’m trying to be better.

    I think the comment about updating my social media notification settings is really smart. Do I really need to look at IG after every single like or comment? No.

    Anyway. I feel you. Hopefully we can all engage with those around us more effectively in 2013.

    • We all do it, right? It’s just the way of the blogger, and it doesn’t make you a bad mom (you’re not the worst AT ALL. Not even close). Or me a bad girlfriend. And how nice is it for us to have these friendships with women from all over the country!? I feel very lucky for that, at least– incredibly lucky.

      But it’s just something that’s good for us to take a step back and think about. Which we’re doing, so that’s got to mean something. Also, we’re not perfect, we’re human. And it’s natural to make mistakes, and then make ourselves better because of them.

      But damn you, iPhone, I love you and I hate you. All at the very same time.

      Glad you’re with me on this, M.

  9. “But damn you, iPhone, I love you and I hate you. All at the very same time.”

    Truer words were never spoken.

  10. I’m so guilty of this. I ma actually wicked jealous of people who have jobs that don’t involve computers because I feel like I’m on my computer all day at work, phone all night, and repeat. When do I just unplug? James says “Stop Phonin'” to me like 40 times a night. It’s so hard to detach because I get overwhelmed when I log into things and feel like I have so much to check up on. I like keeping up with it all day, but, then I turn into this phone obsessed weirdo. Jenni of Story of My LIfe, wrote a post called “Blogging gave me ADD” or something and it was SPOT ON to how I feel. Good luck with this and hopefully we can all learn a little too.

    • Oh, gosh. I just went looking for that post and it was SO RIGHT.

      Linking it here for anyone else that’s interested: http://storyofmylifetheblog.blogspot.com/2012/08/my-blog-gave-me-add.html

      Why are we so addicted? I think it’s the instant gratification thing, I’m sure of it. It feels SO good to be connected, and to feel like people are “liking” you. But checking and checking and checking isn’t going to change anything. At the end of the day, the people who liked you while you were checking and checking and checking are still going to like you when you haven’t checked a bazilion times in one hour. Everything is still going to be there. Nothing is going to change while you’re living your life. It’s going to be better actually, “sharper”. Thanks for sharing that post, Jenna. I loved reading it.

  11. I completely get this! My cousin/best friend gets onto me about not listening, and it’s for the same reasons. I can get distractedly easily, but I feel like I’ve gotten a lot better with my listening skills in the last year, at least. I think you’re taking the right steps to fixing your problem, and I could probably take some tips from you, as well! :)

    • It’s so nice to know I’m not alone in this. Technology is supposed to make our lives easier, but sometimes it just ends up complicating things!

  12. You’re totally spot-on with this! Mike’s mantra whenever I’m not paying attention is “Instagram, Instagram, Instagram!” and I’m totally guilty! Recently I’ve been putting my phone away when Mike gets home and it really helps!

    I’ve also been making more of an effort recently to be a better listener to the kids in my class.. Too many times I’ve caught myself interrupting/stopping a story/moment because I *think* I know what’s going on, but then realize that if I had been listening a bit more carefully I might have seen/heard something magical and/or hilarious! Those little ones. Such gems.

    • Gems! Total Gems. I feel like I’m pretty good in school– the hours go by so quick and I’m moving/talking/teaching all the time, so I feel like I have to be super present, you know?

      But yes, sometimes I am like “NOT NOW.” about stories and rants and such and maybe I should listen to them more, because I’d likely get a good laugh.

  13. Did you write that little thingy at the top with your new tablet??

  14. dude. you just described me. and i hadn’t really admitted this to myself yet. i do it a LOT with brian. like a lot. but i, too, love this online community oh so much. it’s the bestest! i suppose i should take this pledge too…BUT INSTEAD i’m going to let you do it first and tell me how it’s going :)

    • I will let you know how it’s going… so far (day 2), I’ve been good with the phone, but not with the computer really. It’s 10:27 at night and Zan’s in the other room and I am in here. But I guess we can’t spend every SINGLE second when we’re at home sitting together and starting at one another. That’d be weird.

  15. YEP. i knowwww whatcha saying.

    • Right? But it’s just so fun to have friends! And people who will listen to you! Something all of us bloggers need to work on, I guess…

  16. I used to get so annoyed when my boyfriend would read twitter and football blogs nonstop and wouldn’t hang on my every word. Instead of having an adult conversation about it, I developed my own twitter/instagram/blog obsession to pass the time. So now we just stare at our phones and computers all the time. It’s a problem. Glad to hear we’re not the only ones that need to work on it.


    • Haha! This is kind of funny to me because Zan recently got an iPhone, and now sometimes he’s on it too. Probably did it just like you said– to avoid adult conversation around the issue and make his own fun.

  17. what a great post! I actually started reading it last night & half way through realized I was sitting next to my husband and completely ignoring him. Right then I closed my laptop and spent the rest of the evening being present with him. It’s crazy how often we do this to one another. Now I’m back reading today, but with the intention to step away from the social media when he is home. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • I think many of us do it without even realizing it. Because technology has become so ingrained in our lives. But yes, let’s put it away more and try to just be! Glad you’re going to work on it, too.

  18. Found this post via Elizabeth’s blog and it is just SO GOOD. My top goal for the New Year is to step away from my phone/computer during the day. It’s zapping my productivity and keeping me from being more engaged with my son, which is just embarrassing. I’ve always said that it helps me feel more connected while staying home all day, but there are too many other ways to feel that connection than from behind a computer screen. So here’s to that.

    • Here’s to that!

      It’s seriously so hard… and I think we have to be conscious, but not too hard on ourselves. Just something to think about/aim for in 2013, right?

  19. oh, anna. yes yes and yes!! i’d write more if i wasn’t about to stop computer/phone time and cuddle with my husband (it’s true!). we are all about that over here right now and it..feels..sooooo GOOD!!! right there with you, friend :) let’s keep each other accountable, everybody!!

    • I’m glad you’re doing it too! It’s been hard for me (I’ve slipped a few times)… but I’m trying! And conscious! So at least there’s that.

      I want to give updates on how I’m doing as well– to keep myself accountable throughout the year. Enjoy your weekend!

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