The Superpower of Paying Attention

I have ADD.

I have never been diagnosed with ADD, nor have I been to a doctor and been treated for it but I know down deep in my heart that I have it.

How do I know? Well, it’s hard for me to stay focused and I…oh my God did you see that new show on TV last night…oh look a squirrel…I saw a rock. 🙂

So, in order for me to rein in my ferris wheel, as Steve calls it, and get to the point, I try and study other speakers who seem to have a better grasp on their thoughts than I do.

One speaker I admire is Bill Clinton.

Now no matter what side of the political fence you mow your grass on, there is no denying that if you study Bill Clinton, you can’t help but wonder what makes this man so personable.

There is a warmth and a down home goodness in his words and mannerisms and I, as an aspiring motivational speaker, want to learn from him.

He has a superpower, and it’s not the one you’re thinking of, that has made him one of the greatest speakers of our time and he is certainly a man who knows how to win friends and influence people.

I have never been concerned about him one way or the other however I admire his public speaking skills and I wanted to delve further into what made this gentle and seemingly quiet man so powerful and charismatic.

So, what did I find out was the secret to his success? It’s simple: His legendary charisma stems from the full and undivided attention he gives to every single person he meets.

Paying attention may sound easy to do but most of us don’t apply our full focus when interacting with other people.

Most of us are so distracted and try to multi-task that it seems the ability to completely engage with another person, instead of their cell phone, has become an unusual trait.

Consider this, the average Smartphone user checks his device

every six and a half minutes, or…that on average we give only one-third of our attention to the person we’re having a conversation with.

So someone who can completely and utterly pay attention to you is not only impressive but it’s rare.

How can we learn to completely give someone our undivided attention?

Well, there are certain things that studying speakers like Bill Clinton have taught me:

Attention is about empathy

When speaking to someone, look them in the eye and ask questions. Don’t always make everything about you, ask them about their life, and be genuinely concerned.

One thing I like to do is to keep a mental file on someone. It may sound silly and borderline creepy, but it shows the other person I was paying attention. So the next time I run into them, I can impress them by asking:

“How did your daughter make out on her driving test?”

“Did your son make the football team? I know how excited he was to join.”

“How did your mom’s surgery go? I hope she is okay.”

They will think to themselves, hey she really cares about me and guess what, I do.

Say these things with feeling and mean them.

 Attention can make the difference between a strong and a weak communicator

There is a difference between talking at people and talking to or with them.

Paying attention can be your secret weapon.

When someone approaches you after your speech, focus on them, listen, thank them for coming and make them feel like they are the only person in the room.

Remember the saying, they may forget what you said but they will never forget how you made them feel. And that feeling…will have them coming back for more.

People can tell when you’re actually listening to them – and they love it

Everyone wants to be acknowledged. Learn to connect with people, look them in the eye and listen to what they have to say. Everyone has a story to tell and as a communicator, we often learn more by listening than we do by talking.

Showing concern and interest in another shows not only respect but also a love for human nature and when you are genuinely listening to someone, it makes them feel recognized. In turn, you feel good as well.

Eye contact matters

According to Psychology Today eye contact is the “strongest form of nonverbal communication.” It’s a commanding display of your attention.

After meeting someone for the first time, take their hand and make eye contact. After you leave and move on to the next person, look back at them and seal the deal.

That is powerful and that kind of acknowledgement leaves a lasting impression on someone.

You can improve your ability to pay attention

When it comes to paying attention, great practitioners aren’t born — they’re made.

One way to improve your ability to engage and communicate with others is through meditation. I do this myself every day.

Studies have shown that meditation can improve concentration and focus and gives us an increased ability to avoid distractions. Just as exercise can improve the body, meditation and mindfulness can build your attention muscle through regular training.

Using meditation can help you stay well balanced and can make you more effective in every aspect of your life.

So in conclusion, mediation has helped me in my quest to take over the world…oh look something shiny…

Lisa V. Proulx


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