When I look at someone’s face, I often get overwhelmed by the information flow. I have found at least two: Doodling and arguing. These work especially well for me when in a meeting or at a lecture. What do I mean by doodling and arguing?
Well, doodling is fairly clear: I look at paper and make little drawings. They aren’t good, I’m a terrible artist and have problems with pen control, but that’s not the issue: It’s a way for me to look away from the person talking without being rude. They think I am taking notes, which is permissible in a lecture or meeting. Doodling seems to help quite a few people. A friend of mine sent me a TED talk on doodling. Doodling in a one-on-one conversation is considered rude, though.
Arguing is also useful, again, especially in a lecture or meeting. One key is to do it to yourself (it’s a key that I often lose … but it’s a key). When I listen to someone speak, I try to figure out why they are wrong, or, at least, what counter-arguments could be made. This forces me to pay attention to the key things the person is saying. How could I refute what I am not paying attention to? Arguing also helps me remember the key points at a later date. If I try to take notes, though, I lose the thread of what the person is saying. Sometimes I will write down a word or a sentence here or there, and, if it’s the sort of lecture where formulas get written on a board, I can often copy them – but formulas are usually in a textbook, too, and getting a formula a little bit wrong can be worse than not getting it at all. Sometimes I will argue out loud with a person – this can be tricky. But arguing in my own head isn’t dangerous at all.
Of course, these are methods that work for me. They may or may not work for you.