Your Attention is a Gift Worth Giving


Named by Inc. as one of the top 100 leadership speakers, Shelley Row, P.E., is an engineer and former government and association executive. Shelley’s leadership work focuses on developing insightful leaders who can see beyond the data.

Cultivating a spirit of gratitude makes life more fulfilling and meaningful. But have you thought about how YOU can cause someone else to be grateful? There are lots of ways to enhance the lives of others–one of the most valuable of which is to give them your attention.

I remember a friend telling me, “The most precious gift you can give to someone is your attention.” That thought has stuck with me. We live in a world clamoring for our attention. Pop up notifications. Emails. Phone calls. Advertising all around us (sometimes even in restroom stalls!) It all seems so insistent and relentless. Is it any surprise that having time with someone who is truly paying attention is such a blessing?

Here are three actions you can take right now in everyday situations at work to be more responsible with your attention and, in the process, give others your most precious gift.

Notice the reactions of each individual and the quality of the relationship growing–by simply giving of your attention.

  1. 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 the conversation unfolds, look at each person, making comfortable eye contact and simply listen to what they have to say without crafting a response. Do your best not to interrupt, but to allow pauses for everyone to absorb what is being said. Notice the reactions of each individual and the quality of the relationship growing–by simply giving of your attention.
  2. Visitors to your office. You are dealing with your pile of emails when your colleague walks in the door.  Stop what you are doing, move your hands from the keyboard, and face him. Give them your full attention for the next few minutes. Perhaps you’ll find that you reach resolution quicker or you generate more interesting ideas together or, maybe, you help them feel heard. That last one is indeed a precious gift.
  3. 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 Tom, the person getting your coffee at Starbucks or Emily, the register attendant at the store, or Miriam, the teller at the bank. Whoever it is, for each of them, pause, make 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. I hope you go and share the gift of your attention with others.

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