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  • Claudia Brose

When you listen - do you actually pay attention?



What is this thing about listening? Why do I really need to pay attention to what the other person is saying and trying to convey to me? What’s in it for me?


As leaders and positive difference-makers, one of our biggest challenges, we must turn into an opportunity is to get individuals to listen and pay attention”,

says Coach George Raveling.


Do you know those conversations that just suck? The conversation partner is only interested in unloading his garbage on you, sucking up your time, and wasting your energy. A one-way street in which your role is to replace the wall at the end of the street, so it doesn’t look so stupid for the other party to talk to a wall.


These are the situations where you want to remove yourself from the conversation, with kindness and determination, just as you would remove a tick from your skin, carefully twisting it and slowly pulling out, without offending anybody.


Perhaps you are a person who thinks that you get more out of your attention span and save time by dividing your attention? Giving half of your attention to the conversation partner and the other half you throw at the to-do list for today or the arguments for the next conversation partner in your busy schedule? Or, you already prepare your reply.


Most of us don’t listen with the intent to understand. We listen with the intent to reply”, says Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

Listening with attention


“We all listen to some degree, but we need to listen with attention.” Wise words. That requires time and the willingness to step into an uncomfortable zone. Leaving your own thoughts, think about what the other one says, trying to remember. We try to avoid that because it is so much easier and faster to just quickly dance on the surface of the conversation.


We listen to about 60 percent of our communication time and retain only 25 percent of what we hear. So, we are not very good at listening. We are lacking attention.


Pay something, get something in return


If you want to learn something, you better cultivate a mindset of listening.

Listening means PAYING attention. You pay something, you get something in return. You pay with your time, curiosity, interest, and empathy, no matter if your conversation partner is your child, spouse, colleague, client, or business contact. In return, you get new insights, information, inspiring thoughts, love, appreciation, solutions. It is not easy to pay attention it is exhausting and requires effort. But the good news is, if you do, you feel engaged and inspired.


Real conversations involve both parties and are about sending and receiving thoughts and information. Real conversations require both parties to evaluate the ratio of talking and listening.


Paying Attention while listening — it pays off


I believe that every human being needs to listen consciously in order to live fully — connected in space and in time to the physical world around us, connected in understanding to each other, not to mention spiritually connected, because every spiritual path I know of has listening and contemplation at its heart”,

says Julian Treasure in his TED Talk on How to listen better.


Approach every conversation with the assumption that you have something to learn.

In every conversation try to find a new point of view you haven’t considered before.


Really listening and “paying attention” pay off. And who doesn’t want to get paid well?


Your reward is enjoyment, helpful information, or possible solutions. You might walk away amazed and inspired.


And you leave a conversation partner that is happy and thankful to have received a great gift from you: Your attention. You truly listened to him/her.


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Photo © John McDermott | www.mcdfoto.com

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