I’m a big fan of giving thanks for all the great things in life. This year, let’s turn Thanksgiving upside down. Let’s give those around us something to be thankful for. And, I have the perfect thing – your attention.
A friend recently said to me, “The most precious gift you can give someone is your attention.” That idea stuck. Today’s world is cluttered with demanding gadgets that beep and buzz insistently until attended to; pop-ups that relentlessly hog the screen and bully their way to the forefront. In that world, attention becomes a precious bit of energy that we pilfer away carelessly.
Here are three actions you can take right now to be more responsible with your attention and in the process, give others your most precious gift.
- Your next meeting. In the very next meeting you participate in or lead, walk in the door, sit down and put your phone conspicuously on the table face down and don’t touch it until you leave. As conversation unfolds, look each person in the eye and listen. Notice their reaction and the quality of the relationship that is generated by simply giving of your attention.
- Visitors in your office. You are knee-deep in emails when your co-worker walks in the door. Stop typing; remove your hands from the keyboard and turn to face your guest. For the next few minutes, give them your full attention. Perhaps you’ll find that you reach resolution quicker or you generate more interesting ideas together or, maybe, the person feels heard. That last one is indeed a precious gift.
- The others. This last one is my personal favorite. As you go about your day, notice all the small interactions you have with the other people like Tim, the person taking your order at Panera; Joyce, the checker at the grocery store; or Juanita, the bank teller (all people I encountered today). Maybe for you it’s Julio who makes your coffee or Susie at the dry cleaners. Whoever it is, for each of them, pause, make eye contact, hold eye contact, smile and engage in momentary conversation. The exchange may not last a minute and yet it matters. These are people accustomed to being overlooked. When you instead give attention to them, notice how they brighten. At last someone recognizes them as a human. And all it cost you was a moment of attention.
And for me, I would like to thank you for reading. Through reading you give me the gift of your attention. For that I am most grateful. This year, more than others, I feel keenly the comfort that your attention provides. Now, I hope you go and share the gift of your attention with others.