Micro-Distractions Are Ruining Your Relationships

The Party Scientist
4 min readJan 16, 2024

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Read on to create nourishing connections with others and make them feel special when they’re with you.

There I was meeting new people at my friends’ birthday party.

“I am so happy for you! No more mortgage. Hell yes.” I said to her. We had been talking about her transition to financial freedom.

Then things went sideways.

Her eyes went to her phone. She started scrolling through her notes app. As she did this, she asked me: “How about you? Where are you living right now?”

I paused to think… Is this person really this socially-unaware? She’s going to have a conversation with me while scrolling through their notes…

Then, I mustered the strength.

“I have a policy of not having conversations with people who are on their phones. Do you want to carry on when you’re done?”

The energy shifted. She became closed-off. The conversation ended.

I said to myself “Guess I need to learn how to be a softer communicator.”

The question I have for you is this: Has this happened to you? How did it make you feel? Did you speak up to tell someone they were distracted?

Chances are, you felt ignored. You felt invisible. You felt kinda crappy.

This is what micro-distractions do. They make people feel kinda crappy. In small doses.

What is a micro-distraction? A short, micro-lapse in attention during an interpersonal interaction.

Ex: Glancing at your phone, waving at someone behind the person you’re speaking with, pointing something out in the environment in the middle of conversation.

Some may say, “micro-distractions are normal. It’s impossible to maintain crystal clear attention on human connection. Give yourself a break. Let yourself be distracted for once.”

But let me ask you this. Are ‘normal’ interactions healthy? If you’re reading my blog, you likely reject ‘default social norms’ and you want more. You also know the answer — NO.

Most ‘normal’ interactions are hardly interactions. They are people taking turns speaking, with no actual listening, empathy, attention, or care.

So. To the people who say micro-distractions are normal: raise your standards for your interpersonal interactions!

Overcoming micro-distractions is one path to deeper human connection. When your attention is resiliently focused on the person in front of you, you’ll make them feel like they’re the only human that exists when they’re with you. Who doesn’t want to make someone feel this way?

The absence of micro-distractions makes them feel like they’re the only human who exists in your presence.

What are the largest sources of micro-distractions? The phone, the environment, other humans, and of course, your thoughts.

How do you eliminate micro-distractions from your connections?

  1. Commit to paying attention even when you’re bored.
  2. Create back-n-forth in the interaction to keep you engaged.
  3. Narrow your visual field to the person, so that you don’t see distractions.
  4. When you notice a distraction in your peripheral vision, re-commit to paying attention to the person in front of you.
  5. When you notice an urge to do something different, re-commit to paying attention to the person in front of you.
  6. If you cannot pay full attention, communicate this to them.
  7. If you feel the need to leave the interaction, communicate this to them.
  8. Regularly train your attention through focus meditations.

It’s easy to let yourself wander from new thing to new thing. This is how the brain is designed — a dopamine-seeking missile addicted to novelty. It’s certainly easier to constantly change the subject, change the human, and change the environment. You get more dopamine when you switch.

The path to a deeply nourishing interpersonal life involves retraining the brain. From superficial dopamine seeking… to deep listening and emotional attuning!

Distractions feel good in the short-term, but far less than distraction-free human connection.

Final Recommendation

When you’re connecting with humans, start to notice yourself getting distracted for split seconds. Bring yourself back. Start training.

If you’re feeling thankful, could you like or comment this article? What wisdom do you have to share with other readers? We’d love to hear your additions.

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Thanks for spreading healthier human connections 🧠

— Jacques, The Chief Connection Scientist



The Party Scientist

Human Connection & Belonging Strategist | Professor of Shared Joy | I help leaders reinvent how they connect their people and build community