The idea for this post came to me while reading the holiday wishes received in the newsletter from Marie Forleo, about the best gift you can give during the holidays – your full attention. I have grown to know and appreciate that this is indeed the most valuable. Full attention offered to the ones around us represents time out of our lives offered to them and what is more valuable than that. Offering our full attention to family, friends and any interlocutor for that matter, means “I am putting everything else in my life on hold and giving you my undivided attention.” Apart from being the greatest of compliments, it is also a way to really connect with the people around.
I used to have a really hard time in meetings and discussions, whether they were around a table of ten or across a table of two. While the people in front of me spoke, I would be busy preparing my answers, already answering in my head, interrupting, worrying about the way my face looks as I listened to what they had to say or, in more difficult situations, about what I had to do afterwards or had done before. It is truly hard to engage in any exchange in this manner and more often than not I would leave the table depleted of energy or really charged.
There is one simple thing that completely changed the way I engage at work: pen, paper and writing. I know about myself that my attention tends to wander and that I am prone to strong emotional reactions so I write things down. I get into details, I write down every detail I can. I take notes in any meeting, regardless of whether I intend to keep the notes or not. Paper is the realm on which I share the ideas that are dying to get out as responses to what I am hearing, and getting them out allows me to continue listening and be free of the pressure of getting them out of my mind. If the conversation is not interesting, as some conversations happen to not be, I resort to my pen and paper and put down ideas that come through to me while listening so that I can continue to be present and at the same time I don’t lose precious insights.
I used to carry my computer everywhere but the idea that you can take notes on the computer / IPad or phone is a trap – there are too many distractions that get you away from the actual conversation. Pen and paper are my anchor, allowing me to listen, process and breathe.
It’s Christmas Eve and I am getting ready to face a tough crowd: my extended family. Too bad I cannot carry pen and paper to the lunch table. What I am going to do though is zoom in on every person talking and spend my time fully engaged. I am there, after all – better offer the best gift there is.