Article: The Gift of Undivided Attention!

Life @ Work

The Gift of Undivided Attention!

The courtesy of listening, participating and excusing one's self is rare, if not dead. So if someone's talking, while another is busy texting, and the third is answering emails… who's listening?
The Gift of Undivided Attention!

By fiddling with your phone when in company, you are ignoring people and puncturing their ego. Ignoring someone is akin to scorning them openly


The meeting was in full swing. Anita was leading a serious discussion with her team. Great thoughts and ideas flew about freely. Creative juices flowed smoothly. Then a phone beeped softly. Through the corner of her eye, Anita noticed a hand groping the tabletop and pulling a mobile phone into a lap below. A pair of eyelids fluttered quickly in short, sharp downward glances. Salil began to first read then start to answer his message. Within seconds, Salil’s mind, engrossed in his communication, had shut down on the discussion.

Anita paused mid-sentence and waited. Salil was oblivious to everyone else in the room.


Salil jerked up to 10 pairs of eyes staring at him.

“Sorry, sorry…”

Salil was embarrassed. He had lost the train of the discussion. Anita, who had spent a considerable amount of time preparing for the meeting, was annoyed. Precious time was wasted before the discussion could retain its original momentum.

It seems to be an acceptable social habit these days. People deliberately reaching out for their devices – and fiddling with them – just as you’ve reached mid-sentence! And without so much as a by-your-leave.

At a café I frequent, I have seen groups where one person is talking animatedly, while the others are furiously working their phones. What a conversation! What amazing communication skills! The ability – or rather the disability – to part-listen, and part-participate, in one conversation, while seemingly part-engrossed in another one altogether!

Oh okay, this is less about communication – and more about etiquette and basic respect! May I revisit a few forgotten facts around communications:

Multi-tasking is different from distraction: So don’t even go down that path. Multi-tasking is doing several important things responsibly, at the same time. Distraction is the exact opposite. Answering a business email or reading/writing a message hogs up brain-space – there’s no way anyone can do anything else, responsibly, at the same time!

Hearing is different from listening: Listening enables participation and sharing of opinions–the fundamentals of good communication, remember? Hearing actually means nothing in a professional or even a personal communication. When people say ‘I hear you’, it means they are not interested in listening to you. It’s not the same as disagreeing – it’s infinitely worse!

You are there because you are valued: No one invites freeloaders to meetings. If you have been invited it’s because you – i.e. your opinion, your decisions, your perspectives, your expertise, your wisdom – are all valued. The obvious expectation, therefore, is that you live up to this image.

Nothing is that important: If it is critical or an emergency, people will call – repeatedly. Look at it this way: If business goes on perfectly well when you are on vacation, surely a few messages can wait until your meeting ends.

Everyone has an ego: It’s subtle, but there. By fiddling with your phone when in company, you are ignoring people and puncturing their ego. Ignoring someone is akin to scorning them openly! And, hell hath no fury like anyone scorned. Chastisement may happen post-facto, but it will happen!

If the speaker doesn’t care, you lose! Sometimes people just continue speaking pretending not to notice. Be aware, nothing goes unnoticed! However, you, the distracted, will lose. There’s the possibility of missing out on something important today, only to look foolish tomorrow.

Ultimately, it’s about respect: Cultural fluctuations may vary the concepts and principles of etiquette. But by according undivided attention, one is according respect. You value the other person enough to put your life on hold – for the duration of that communication. The thing about respect is that we have the right to expect it only if we give it ourselves.

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Topics: Life @ Work, #Communication

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