Have you ever sat next to your BFF (Best Friends Forever) and after pouring out your heart to them, looked at their face and wondered if they were even paying attention? Or perhaps called a customer care number to sort out a concern, only to be put on hold for irritatingly long. Eventually, after saying your story you wonder if the consultant even heard you or was simply rushing to transfer you to another operator and another, until your airtime ran out.
Whatever the case, time and time again nature teaches us that paying attention is not an art, but a craft. It is not some super skill you are born with, but something you have to work at to get better. Just in case you want to sharpen this invaluable asset, here are some pointers you need to know.
- Emotional intelligence
Paying attention is a sign of emotional intelligence. It is not everybody who can listen. We are not talking about listening silently to someone blabbering on. Truth be told, it does not even have to more than attentive silence. Just because someone is next to you or not replying does not mean that they are paying attention.
- Switch off
You can be silent, but dozing off or thinking of a hundred other things than what is being spoken to you is a no go. In order to pay attention, it is critical to switch off other things and be present in the moment. Your conscious state of being is vital in order to really hear. At times the person might have a squawky voice or there can be loud traffic or tears which serve as noise (distraction), but you need to train yourself to be there, completely.
- Have eyes that see detail
Did you actually see the sun on your face when you woke up or stepped out of the house today? Did you notice the little acts of kindness all around? Paying attention starts with noticing the seemingly insignificant. You cannot dare to see the bigger picture if you fail to see truth, goodness and purity. See the little things and that will in turn enable you to see and hear more.
You don’t always need a game plan
It’s tempting to think that you always need to give good advice. That you should always have great replies at the ready. Even sound like a Shakespearian imitator in order to be considered wise. This however could not be further from the truth. Sometimes you can be so busy planning a smart response that you miss what was said. If someone tells you about their painful experience, listen first and then think about how you can help with their heartbreak.
Paying attention cannot be without a level of vulnerability. It comes at a price. This can be your time. It can be simply encouraging the tears. It means dropping all else to put your friend first and simply listen. But you cannot give what you do not possess.
It all starts with learning to listen to self. Listen to your heartbeat. Pay attention to the blood rushing in your body. Prioritise yourself and know that you are worthy of highest praise and love. Paying attention starts with me.
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