The fast pace that people are expected to maintain in today’s world of work means that interactions with others are limited and cursory. Taking the time to slow down may mean everything to the other person. By giving value to the opinions and thoughts of others, it’s possible to enhance the capacity to influence.
It’s so easy to slip into the busy, hectic, everyday routine. Most of us interact with other people, at least occasionally, but are you really paying attention to those around you? Do you know everyone’s name in your office (or at least your immediate work area)? When you give people your undivided attention, you are giving them the gift of your time and showing that you value this interaction.
WHEN YOU ARE TOO BUSY FOR OTHER PEOPLE
Humans typically enjoy being busy. Researchers found that people choose to be idle if there isn’t a reason to be busy. But, we usually jump at any excuse to get busy, making us happier. The authors speculated that these findings could be explained by our human ancestors, who had to expend a great deal of energy on basic survival.1
While being busy seems to be good for most of us, it is possible to be TOO busy. If you never have time for your partner, colleagues, children, or pets, it probably means you have too much going on. Imagine how much you are missing.
THE BAD NEWS: YOUR BRAIN CAN’T MULTITASK WELL
Neuroscience has long known that age can negatively impact brain function. However, scientists have also found that working memory performance in older individuals is more impaired when interruptions occurred compared to their younger counterparts. The older we are, the more likely we are to disengage from a neural network that maintains memory when our attention is diverted.2
While we may boast that we can do it all, you really can’t mentally write an email and be totally present when you are speaking with someone. It’s like the old trick of patting your head and rubbing your stomach. If you have to think hard about doing that, how can you possibly give someone your full attention when your brain is already two meetings ahead?
“Tell me what you pay attention to
and I will tell you who you are.”
Jose Ortega y Gasset
STOP AND BE IN THE MOMENT
Being too busy is, many times, a simple excuse to avoid a situation. There are some situations where you cannot spare a moment, such as running to catch a connecting flight or to use the restroom. But when we interact with others, are we always too busy to give our undivided attention?
Agility is valued in the turmoil of the world economy and being able to quickly respond to ever-changing conditions is the mark of a leader who can learn and adapt to meet new challenges.3 If you don’t have a spare moment to listen to those around you, to really listen, your influence and agility will decrease, and someone else may be behind you, ready to take your place.
Taking the time to listen doesn’t cost you much, but it may mean the world to the person you are speaking to. Consider these tips to give people your undivided attention:
- Put your phone away. Out of sight, out of mind. While that may not be precisely true with your phone, put it away when you are speaking with someone. There is nothing that yells “I’M NOT REALLY LISTENING” like checking a cell phone ten times during a conversation.
- Take notes if you need to. Unless you are graced with a perfect memory, you might want to take notes during an important conversation. This act will engage your brain and help you retain the information in the future.
- Ask personal questions. Ask how someone’s spouse or partner is doing. Ask how their new puppy is adapting to the household. Showing an interest in other people shows that you value them.
- Show gratitude to others. Just because a person is supposed to accomplish a task for you doesn’t mean that you can’t thank them. Your employees, colleagues, and family members probably do a hundred little things to make your day better -and you probably don’t even realise it. Say thank you & show your gratitude often.
LEARN HOW TO POSITIVELY INFLUENCE OTHERS
Expanding your influence is important to be an effective leader. A leadership program such as the teaches the science and art of influence. Leaders with a high level of agility will influence others easily.4
Next time someone speaks to you, stop what you are doing and give this person your undivided attention. When you give the gift of time, people will respect you. Creating an atmosphere of open communication and respect increases agility and innovation, and is one step to creating a better world.
1. Hsee CK, Yang AX, Wang L. Idleness Aversion and the Need for Justifiable Busyness. Psychological Science. 2010;21(7): 926-930. doi: 10.1177/0956797610374738.
2.Clapp WC, Rubens MT, Sabharwal J, Gazzaley A. Deficit in switching between functional brain networks underlies the impact of multitasking on working memory in older adults. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 2011;108(17): 7212-7217. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1015297108.
3. Damiano, S. Wellbeing Strategies for Optimal Brain & Body Performance. About my Brain Institute. 2018;1. [eBook].
4. McLennan K. Building Leaders for the Imagination Age: The Case for the i4 Model. About my Brain Institute. 2016;1. [White Paper].