Giving someone the benefit of your full attention is a true gift and, unfortunately, it is becoming a rare occurrence. If you think about the level of demand and pace faced by people today, it is amazing that any of us are able to pay attention to others at all. When interacting with others, most of us are quick to make decisions and to judge things as right or wrong, and once that occurs, it’s nearly impossible to pay attention to the full scope of what someone is saying. Our phones, computers, and tablets vie for attention and social media is teaching us to think in 140 characters or single photos and images—all of which challenges our ability to focus our attention on others as they are speaking to us, or trying to communicate something in writing.
Yet, for connection and for success, it’s important to pay attention to what others are communicating to us, not just to the words but also to the nuance that goes with those words. In person, that may be the speed or cadence of their speech, their facial or physical cues, or how they lean in or cross their arms when they reach certain parts of what they are trying to say. In writing, it means paying attention to the ordering of a note, the timing of when they write, and the combination of content to get the information beyond the words.
This week, we are going to ask you to notice how well you pay attention. Do you deeply and curiously listen to someone by asking questions that elicit greater detail, or do you immediately start to think about what you want to say to them? Do you pay at least as much attention to their non-verbal communication as you do to their words? When you read a note from someone, do you give yourself time to read it through for overarching content and then read it through again for the nuance, or are you skimming and reacting?
Notice yourself and your patterns. Your ability to pay attention to others is very important to your leadership in your work, family, and community. People who pay deep attention to others are often rewarded by being given more information, and therefore are experienced as allies and leaders in creating success.
Next week, we will offer you some key steps to fine-tuning the power of your attention.