Consider this scenario:
I want to talk to my husband about something. He’s at his computer working and I say, “I need to talk to you about something. Is now a good time?” He says, “sure.” I start to talk and notice that he’s still clicking around online, obviously involved in something else.
My first instinct has frequently been to say “You’re not listening” or “Well, clearly you’re not interested” – BOTH of which could be VERY incorrect! I hate it, but he actually CAN listen while doing something else. And he definitely is interested in what I have to say, even though he doesn’t always give me the nonverbal cues that I need in order to perceive his interest.
So the FIRST step of my new system was to say, “John, I have something important to talk about. And while I know that you can listen while still doing things on the computer, that doesn’t work for me. I need to have eye contact so that I can SEE your response to my words. Can you give me that attention now or do you need me to come back when you’re finished with that?”
And now, having set this as our foundation, all I have to say is, “John, I need to talk and I need your eyeballs. Is now a good time?
He gets it right away.