We’ve gotten terrible about giving others our undivided attention. We can’t go a few minutes without checking our emails, texts, or voice mails—even when we’re engaged in a conversation, meeting, or event.
Once I was in a meeting with the Mayor of Washington DC and 4 of the 7 people contributing to the conversation were texting. I have no idea the value of their texting. Maybe they were engaged in meaningful actions, but the behavior has become so normal that no one at the meeting thought it was odd. Not even the mayor, who talked around the texting.
The next time someone, especially a student, is trying to talk to you, stop what you’re doing and turn towards them. Put your hands down and look them in the eyes and listen to them. If you’re outside and wearing sunglasses, take them off. If your day is so busy that you can’t even focus your thoughts on what they’re saying, try repeating their words in your head. It’s a great technique that forces you to be there in that moment and to listen. Abraham Lincoln used to do something very similar.
We have to do more than just say we care. We have to prove it. Today, when someone needs you to hear them, give them your undivided attention. Not a little bit of it—all of it. Every time you do, you’re proving to that person that, “You matter that much.”