Your Attention, Please

Just before my wedding more than 25 years ago, I remember a friend shared some advice with me.  She said, “your wedding and reception will go by so fast.  If you don’t pay attention, the day will be gone in a flash, and you won’t remember anything.  Be sure to intentionally pause several times throughout the evening to take in what is happening around you.  Years from now, you’ll be glad you did.”  She was so right!  I vividly recall stopping at regular intervals to look around, see who was there, listen to what they were saying, take in the music, savor the atmosphere.  It was such an amazing experience – all the more so because I actually remember it!

Today, I have positioned myself as an expert when it comes to building authentic, meaningful relationships.  One aspect of my brand that I am particularly proud of is that I am pretty skilled at remembering people’s names.  I think it’s important.  After all, our names are the most personal things we own and we freely dole them out to whoever will take them – when others remember and can speak back our names (both what they are and how to pronounce them), it matters.  It is a signal that “I hear you, I see you, you are important to me.”  Remembering names requires us to pay attention.  To look at a person when they are introducing themselves, to silently commit that name to memory, to keep it in our internal storage.

As British author, Samuel Johnson, wrote in the Dictionary of the English Language, “the true art of memory is the art of attention.”  Building on that, Happiness Research Institute founder and CEO, Meik Wiking, says, “we remember when we pay attention – and we pay attention when we are present, engaged, committed, when what we see and process is meaningful to us” (The Art of Making Memories).

You’ll agree, relationships are important, and those that are particularly meaningful deserve our attention.  Consider these ideas for committing your full attention:

  • No phones at the table.  Mealtime – whether spent with family, colleagues, clients, or friends – is a great time to connect with others.  Breaking bread together is an ideal place to find out what’s going on with someone, to discuss current events, to go deep on a variety of topics.  Nothing kills a conversation faster than one party or the other taking in some screen time in the middle of the salad course!  So, put away your phone – not just turned over on the table, but gone – nowhere to be seen.  All of that internet information, your favorite mobile games, the text messages and emails that came in during your lunch will all be waiting for you when you take your last bite!
  • Look people in the eye.  When it comes to paying attention, look the other party in the eye.  Don’t merely listen… really hear them.  Take in what they are saying.  If you are confused or missed something, ask.  Being fully present will ensure that you are taking in what the other is communicating through their words and body language.
  • Use all your senses.  Wherever you find yourself, pay attention to whatever is going on around you. Take in the sights, the smells, the sounds, touch the surfaces, taste the food and drink.  Notice the little things.  It will help you to remember the moment and allow you to follow up and use that information accordingly.

Thanks for your attention.  Happy Networking!

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