Paying Attention: 5 Helpful Strategies

If there’s a single human characteristic that plays a role in practically everything you do, it’s paying attention. How well you pay attention determines how well you make it through life. Let’s face it, if you’re not paying attention to what the boss is telling you, you could fail to complete the tasks important to him. And that could mean trouble for you.

When your spouse was telling you what annoyed her last night, what were you doing? Were you all about focusing on what she was saying? Or were you catching that great play in the 4th quarter of the football game on ESPN?

One of the most important facets of paying attention is remaining open to hearing everything. You’ve been there-someone spoke to you, maybe about something important, and your mind was elsewhere. Your brain absorbed only half of the conversation, but you missed the other half.

When you focus less fully and hear only what you want or need to hear, you might miss something that was integral to your work or an important relationship. Some experts in psychology believe that humans do far too much judging when they’re supposed to be paying attention.

You see, when you really pay attention, you get the totality of what the person is saying or what’s going on in a situation. You don’t worry about judging, forming an opinion, or criticizing. You’re simply paying attention.

Consider these suggestions to sharpen your attention skills:

Cease what you’re doing to focus on what’s going on or the person who’s talking.

It’s rarely possibly to successfully do two tasks at once. Dividing your consciousness between two events or situations means you’re not focusing all of your attention to either one. To pay attention to one person or situation, you must disengage from others.

Be honest with yourself.

If you struggle to hear others or notice what’s happening, acknowledge to yourself you have difficulty paying attention to certain people or situations. This awareness will help you concentrate even more on what others are saying or doing.

Ask the person to repeat what he just said as soon as you recognize you weren’t listening.

Here again, honesty counts. Speak up and say, I’m sorry, I got really distracted. Could you repeat that?”

Say back to the person what you understood him to say.

A common communication/listening tool is to “check it out” by repeating back what you just heard. “This is what I heard you say…”

Make no judgments.

Form no opinions. Just pay attention and absorb whatever you can without analyzing, judging, or criticizing. This strategy will take some time and practice.

You’ll find your life will actually improve when you start focusing on openly paying attention to others. You just won’t believe what you’ve been missing.


Professional experience

Shapiro, Alison Bonds. Healing into Possibility, Psychology Today website

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