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Minimize Distraction: When Customers Feel They Aren’t Heard

Better Attention at the Workplace

Yesterday while my wife and I were out to dinner, I happened to hear the couple next to us in the restaurant talking about several mistakes that were made regarding the meal they’d ordered. Without missing a beat, one of the couple said to the other, “This seems to happen a lot, doesn’t matter if it is a restaurant, a department store, or the hospital.” “What’s up with that, anyway?” the other asked. “It’s like nobody’s listening.”

Realistically, any of us can make mistakes because we are momentarily inattentive. Yet, there are certain things we can do to try to minimize these moments – and especially in important circumstances.

Good attention is vital for businesses of all types, especially when involving customers, clients, suppliers and fellow employees. When you present yourself as attentive to what others are communicating; that is, you understand and accept that there is a time to listen and to be in “data download mode,” and afterward a time for you to respond, you will (in a perfect world) likely turn on the cooperation switch in others. But you don’t have to live in a perfect world to reap the benefits of better attention.

By putting your attention at the workplace on listening to others more closely, we can help show we are interested in what the other person is saying. If we need clarification, they are usually willing to supply it because we care, are interested, and show the desire to get things right. This all leads less misinformation and fewer misunderstandings. It helps build more congeniality, trust, and better interpersonal relationships. For businesses, good attention skills translate into more revenue, better output and better outcomes.

There have been over the years many comedy skits on the issue of attention (or non-attention). One that comes to mind is from an episode of Seinfeld. In the show, George is being reprimanded by Wilhelm, his boss, for being inattentive. As the scene develops and as luck would have it, Wilhelm starts telling George of a very important project for which he needs his involvement. Wilhelm heads into the bathroom and George misses a lot of what Wilhelm had to say. about the project Of course, George doesn’t ask for clarification and then things get comically complicated – particularly when in “Part 2,” when Wilhelm tells George that he thinks he is doing a good job on the project, but George has no idea what he has done.

But it’s not always funny when we or someone we are working with gets distracted at the workplace and things go awry.

Here are a few quick and easy attention tips you can use to help you maintain a better workplace focus.

  • As you shift from one situation to another, pay attention to how you are paying attention.
  • Take a breath. This technique may sound so familiar, but you will gain “some” relief and coordination of body and mind right away. You’ll feel a quick boost in psychic energy and instantly become more present.
  • When you do, say to yourself (in your mind) “okay, let’s do it” or make up your own feel-good phrase to turn you away from internal or external distractions and help bring you into focus.
  • Take a moment to consider whether you have heard everything. Then turn your attention to the individual(s) you are working with.
  • Put yourself in “listening mode.”
  • Use your breathing to re-fresh your focus if your mind begins to drift.
  • Consider whether you feel you have understood the other person correctly. Gently ask for clarification if necessary, as most individuals will respond positively to the opportunity to get things right and your interest in doing so.
  • If you are problem solving, remember you won’t likely trump another’s emotional response with reasoning, this will potentially add more fuel to the fire. Better – if time is of issue - to offer calming energy for balance and to show interest in understanding the other individual’s issue. Consider ways you can bridge this by obtaining information, showing compassion and a desire to understand and to wish the other person well.
  • Consider your body language. Try to put forward your best neutral or friendly, calming face and posture.

As the individual begins to open up, so do windows of opportunity to start moving things toward solution. Put your attention on your power of reasoning to help you stay in downloading mode and on seeing the right opening for you to respond back.


Note: For a more in-depth discussion of what makes us lose attention and what we can do to regain it quickly, check out my book, Can I Have Your Attention? – How to Think Fast, Find Your Focus and Sharpen Your Concentration.

More from Joseph Cardillo Ph.D.
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