Listening 101: Skill # 2 of 8 - Pay Attention

So think you are a good listener?  Next time you have a conversation, measure how long it takes for you to stop listening before you are preparing your response in your head.  Is it 3 seconds?  10 seconds? 30 seconds?  Come on admit it, we all do it!  Truth is, if you are preparing what you are trying to say before the person finishes, you are not totally paying attention to what is being said.

Skill # 2 – Pay Attention!

We’ve already discussed in the previous post Listening 101: Skill # 1 - Eye Contact and how important Eye Contact is in a conversation.  So paying attention should be the easy part, right?  Paying attention is being present and not just physically.  You need to have your entire focus on what the other person is saying.  This can be difficult for many reasons like if someone has a monotone voice, you don’t like them very much, you assume you “know” what they are going to say, they repeat themselves incessantly, you’ve heard the same story over and over…. Wait I kinda just said that.  See?  Now I’m not paying attention!
To properly listen though, you need to be committed to pay attention, absorb everything they are trying to say, and avoid all distractions (including that shutting off the voice in your head that is saying, “YAWN!”).  Making the attempt to pay attention and avoid distractions is also telling the other person, “What you are saying is important to me, you are important to me, and I want to understand.”

How many of you have been on the phone with a mother who had screaming kids in the background, she’s cleaning the dishes, the dogs is barking, the TV is blaring in the background, and she’s saying “Hold on…” [ she puts the phone down to scream at the kids comes back on, “Okay, so what were you saying?  No, no, no I was REALLY listening.”  No disrespect to all the hardworking multi-tasking mothers who are doing their best to keep their heads above water, but it is fair to say their attention is everywhere and not solely on the phone conversation.
 
One of my favorite stories of not paying attention comes from my childhood where I witnessed a conversation between my mother and my sister...  

All day we had been bugging my mom to have some of her freshly made cupcakes that she was making for our school.  It took her all day and she was tired.  We nagged and nagged and nagged all day to steal one.  She insisted that only when we finished our homework, we could have one.  

I raced through my homework first so I promptly grabbed a cupcake and sat on the couch.  Then my sister came downstairs after finishing her homework and went into the kitchen where my mother was still cleaning.

My sister was now wearing a new outfit and asked, “Hey, Mom, do I look fat?” 

Without even looking my mother screamed, “For heaven’s sake YES already!” 

Well, my sister sprinted from the room crying and I busted out laughing. 

My mother looked at me perplexed, “What the hell is her problem?  I said she could finally have a cupcake?” 

I giggled, “No, Mom, you just called her fat!”







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