[acb-hsp] How to Reverse a Wandering Mind
paltschul at centurytel.net
Wed Apr 11 23:14:23 EDT 2012
How To Reverse Your Hard Wiring For Distraction
BY Expert Blogger Olivia Fox Cabane 04-11-2012 bar 11:00 AM
This blog is written by a member of our expert blogging
community and expresses that expert's views alone. If you want
to be charismatic, your mind can't wander while you're one-on-one
with a customer or colleague. Here's a simple one-minute
exercise to help you focus.
Charismatic behavior can be broken down into three core
elements: presence, power, and warmth. These elements depend
both on our conscious behaviors and on factors we don't
consciously control. People pick up on messages we often don't
even realize we're sending through small changes in our body
In order to be charismatic, we need to choose mental states
that make our body language, words, and behaviors flow together
and express the three core elements of charisma. And presence is
the foundation for everything else.
Have you ever felt, in the middle of a conversation, as if only
half of your mind were present while the other half was busy
doing something else? Do you think the other person noticed? If
you're not fully present in an interaction, there's a good chance
that your eyes will glaze over or that your facial reactions will
be a split-second delayed. Since the mind can read facial
expressions in as little as 17 milliseconds, the person you're
speaking with will likely notice even the tiniest delays in your
We may think that we can fake presence. We may think that we
can fake listening. But we're wrong. When we're not fully
present in an interaction, people will see it. Our body language
sends a clear message that other people read and react to, at
least on a subconscious level.
Not only can the lack of presence be visible, it can also be
perceived as inauthentic, which has even worse consequences.
When you're perceived as disingenuous, it's virtually impossible
to generate trust, rapport, or loyalty. And it's impossible to
Luckily, presence is a learnable skill that can be improved
with practice and patience. Being present means simply having a
moment-to-moment awareness of what's happening. It means paying
attention to what's going on rather than being caught up in your
Now that you know the cost of lacking presence, try this
exercise to test yourself and learn three simple techniques to
boost your charisma in personal interactions.
First, find a reasonably quiet place where you can close your
eyes (whether standing or sitting). Set a timer for one minute.
Close your eyes and focus on one of the following three things:
the sounds around you, your breathing, or the sensations in your
1. Scan your environment for sound. As a meditation teacher
told me, "Imagine that your ears are satellite dishes, passively
and objectively registering sounds."
2. Focus on your breath and the sensations it creates in your
nostrils or stomach. Pay attention to one breath at a time, but
try to notice everything about this one breath. Imagine that
your breath is someone you want to give your full attention to.
3. Focus your attention on the sensations in your toes. This
forces your mind to sweep through your body, helping you to get
into the physical sensations of the moment.
Did you find your mind constantly wandering even though you
were trying your best to be present? As you've noticed, staying
fully present isn't always easy. There are two main reasons for
First, our brains are wired to pay attention to novel stimuli,
whether they be sights, smells, or sounds. We're wired to be
distracted, to have our attention grabbed by any new stimulus: it
could be important! It could eat us! This tendency was key to our
ancestors' survival. Imagine two tribesmen hunting through the
plains, searching the horizon for signs of the antelope that
could feed their family. Something flickers in the distance.
The tribesman whose attention wasn't immediately caught? He's not
The second reason is that our society encourages distraction.
The constant influx of stimulation we receive worsens our natural
tendencies. This can eventually lead us into a state of
continuous partial attention, in which we never give our full
attention to any single thing. We're always partially
So if you often find it hard to be fully present, don't beat
yourself up. Presence is hard for almost all of us. A study
coauthored by Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert estimated that
nearly half of the average person's time was spent "mind
The good news is that even a minor increase in your capacity
for presence can have a major effect on those around you.
Because so few of us are ever fully present, if you can manage
even a few moments of full presence from time to time, youbll
make quite an impact.
The very next time you're in a conversation, try to regularly
check whether your mind is fully engaged or whether it is
wandering elsewhere (including preparing your next sentence).
Aim to bring yourself back to the present moment as often as you
can by focusing on your breath or your toes for just a second,
and then get back to focusing on the other person.
One of my clients, after trying this exercise for the first
time, reported: "I found myself relaxing, smiling, and others
suddenly noticed me and smiled back without my saying a word."
Don't be discouraged if you feel that you didn't fully succeed
in the one-minute exercise above. You actually did gain a
charisma boost simply by practicing presence. And because you've
already gained the mindset shift (awareness of the importance of
presence and the cost of the lack of it), you're already ahead of
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