Doodling, arguing and paying attention

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.


  1. I was never considered learning disabled, but I’m thinking I was the female answer to ADD, without the H…BUT I doodled all through college.

    And now when I read something, I am often thinking of an argument. That’s a very good point. It is the only way I don’t get distracted. I try to read a lot of stuff that is over my head, but to get the jist I may have to go over it repeatedly, each time a little more sinks in.

  2. I was shocked to find there is someone else who experiences the same thing I do! I too have difficulty paying attention to what a person is saying if I look at their face. Glad you found something that works. Great to know there are others who experience this. I get overwhelmed by my thoughts that meander off in all directions. When I look at their face, I notice EVERY LITTLE THING, the earrings, the facial features, the hair, every minute detail. On top of that, my internal critque starts chattering away.

  3. My son is HFA and I always tease him that, “he will look me straight in the mouth and say as little of the truth as he can get away with”. It is a big complement for him and he hates it, because he hates getting caught doing something right. But looking at people’s mouths or noses depending on the day has saved him a lot of grief.

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