The Heart of Communication Is Attention

16 September 2022

By Linda Ferguson

I’m just starting to read a book called The Language Game and I just finished reading The Power of Fun. At the same time, I’m preparing new evening workshops on connection and communication. All of this work reinforces one core idea. The heart of communication is not the words you choose: it’s the attention you give.

What does that mean when you are trying to connect with family and friends you haven’t seen for awhile or when you are walking into the office? It means that your success in building connection and agreement will demand that you keep most of your attention focused on the other people. The more effort you put into choosing your words, the less attention you have to give them.

You will have fabulous conversations that build relationships and not be able to remember what you said. When we have a great connection, the other people will play with us. They’ll hear what we mean even when we say it imperfectly.

The attention you give to choosing the perfect words would be better spent figuring out how to hold your intention while noticing more about the people with whom you are communicating. This takes some practice. You need to know what you want and you need to observe. You’re looking for tangible signs of how the other person is seeing, hearing and feeling while you are talking.

NLP is largely a training space for your attention. Workshops are like gyms that help you do these two things better: 1) get clear about your intention and 2) use all of your senses to notice when your connection is strong and when it needs building. Understanding isn’t enough. You need to build habits of observation that will work for you while you are talking and listening.

How good are you now at fully engaging in a conversation? That means putting aside the ego-driven need for perfect words and building on what you are offered. It means putting away distractions (yes, I mean your phone) and being curious about how the other person is willing to connect.

You know how small children act up when they can tell you’re not really listening to them? Those small children hide inside big people, too. What we all crave is undivided attention from someone who gets us. When you offer that, people will make the effort to build meaning with you – even when the words are a little awkward.

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