The quality of your attention is everything when it comes to engaging with others. This is true whether you are having intense business dealings or chatting with a friend.
Attention is about how you attend and be present to the person and what they are saying. It is about the care and interest which with you receive them. And, this can be very powerful in allowing the other to feel heard and understood. It is also the basis for fertile discussion, because really paying attention creates an openness. An openness born out of the other deeply (and perhaps non-consciously) sensing your willingness to hear them.
Deeply attending to someone is a very mindful state. It is mindful of what the other person is saying and the weight of their personal experiences behind what is being said. Many today have a narrow idea of mindfulness that is reminiscent of Hollywood-style yogis seated in the lotus position observing their breath.
The reality is that you can practice mindfulness through the quality of your attention in your interactions with others. And, more generally through the quality of your attention all the time.
Digital is difficult?
The mass move to home working using video meetings is also creating new challenges in holding attention. The lack of physical proximity makes it easier for us to switch-off or not really listen during those many daily video calls that may become the new normal.
If the general quality of attention in workplace meetings has always been bad, it is about to get far worse. But, it doesn’t have to be that way. With a little bit of care and effort you can offer the gift of your attention to others.
The flip side
There is a slight downside to habitually attending well to what others say that is worth mentioning. Some of you may have experienced this at social events where you ask one or two questions only to have an entire life story thrust open you for one hour.
The reality is that few people receive the kind of deep and focused attention that I am talking about in their lives. And, when they do, it is such a relief to finally be heard that they may not be able to stop themselves from speaking. So, be kind if you find yourself in these situations.
Quality of your attention is a skill
The quality of your attention is not a static thing. Rather, it is a skill that can be practiced. And, the more you practice, the more you will learn about your own mind. Improving the quality of your attention is a path to bringing more clarity into your own life.
If you can really attend closely to others, you can also do the same with yourself. And, if you can really attend to yourself, then you are much more likely to do so with others. The two go together. The quality of your attention is everything.
Harsha is a 1:1 coach and independent thinker based in London. He empowers people to find more clarity, confidence and focus in their lives — to cut through the noise, in a world so full of it. Harsha’s new book, Machine Ego: Tragedy of the Modern Mind, is now available in paperback and Kindle through Amazon.