I’ll be the first one to admit that I have always done my best to pay full attention to whatever or whomever is in front of me. Although in reality, there have clearly been times when I wasn’t able to be fully as engaged as I could or should have been. What did I miss when I wasn’t or couldn’t pay full attention? Your guess is as good as mine, but I guarantee I missed out on some important information along the way.
Is it my fault that I wasn’t or couldn’t pay full attention during critical times when I should have been? Yes, and no. Yes, because I’ll take full ownership for not doing so, but at the same time, I’m human, clearly far from perfect, and admittedly have challenges with doing so. However, I have addressed this personally, so now I feel like I have a much higher capacity to pay attention at a very different level than in the past.
Being able to pay attention at a different level has been eye opening for me. Sort of like when I got eyeglasses and no longer had to struggle to see clearly. It was a liberating feeling, and one that I wish I had been able to experience a long time ago, but I’m not someone to expend energy dwelling on something I can’t change. I learned that not dwelling on things that were out of my control was a fantastic strategy to help me to focus, and pay attention.
There are clearly different levels of paying attention, and instances when it is more critical to do so. When I think back to the times when it was critical for me to pay attention, I know that there were situations that may have had different results had my attention ability been laser focused. Obviously, there isn’t anything I can do to course correct on those experiences. Or is there?
One of the things I have come to appreciate is being able to reflect back on conversations or experiences that are indelibly etched in my mind. Conversations that had I been more present and able to focus on what was being conveyed, how I could have responded verbally or acted differently. The good news is that reflecting back on these scenarios has been both cathartic, and useful in terms of allowing me to apply my past learnings to future instances requiring my full attention.
In fact, I recently was able to benefit from now being able to be fully present, and offer someone my full attention when it was critically needed. I suspect and deep down know that had I not been able to be fully paying attention, that the outcome of the conversation would have been entirely different. Not in a positive way. However, having worked on being aware that I needed to seek support for my lack of ability to fully pay attention paid off enormously for the recipient of my full attention. I didn’t learn the outcome of that conversation for a few months after it occurred, but the results of the conversation, and me being fully present and paying attention made a tremendous difference in another person’s life. So much so, that they are now able to take from their experience and pass it along as a gift to others, and which they have already done.
Consider a time when you wish that you had been paying closer attention to what someone was telling you. Had you been paying full attention, would you have said different things, or perhaps acted differently during the conversation, or perhaps afterwards? If your response to these questions was either yes, or maybe, below are some suggestions to help you in the near future to become a better listener.
- Slow down your thoughts while you are listening to the person or people in front of you.
- Stop trying to anticipate what they will be saying, and focus on what they are saying before you respond.
- I always attempt to think at the beginning of a conversation, what I want the “end game” or results of the conversation to be. I don’t state this out loud, and I may change my “end game” mid conversation.
- Remain as open-minded as you can while you are listening to the person. Being judgmental in your commentary, or body language isn’t going to be helpful, and be aware during the conversation if you are heading into this territory. No one benefits from judgmental commentary.
- Consider asking open-ended questions that will allow the person you are listening to have an opportunity to fully explore and cover the topic they are discussing with you.
- If you notice that someone seems to be struggling emotionally, ask them if they would like to talk to you. Either now, or at a point in time they would be more comfortable doing so. Sometimes just offering to listen to another person can be helpful, but actually doing so will be the ultimate gift.
- Keep your commentary to a minimum, and apply the 80/20 rule. Let the person who needs to be listened to do 80% of the talking.
When we work on and put effort into becoming better at listening and paying attention, we gain a skill that will support us well from a mental health perspective, but also from a leadership perspective. Having the skills and motivation to listen well to another person is a gift that may not be appreciated right away, or reciprocated, but it is always the right thing to do in support of another individual. Who can you pay attention and listen to today?
TAGS: #Leadership #Communication #Motivation #Teams #Business #Personaldevelopment #Mentalhealth #Makingadifference #Listening #Thepoweroflistenting #Payingattention #Thebenefitsofpayingattention #Focus #Havingfocus
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