Do I Have Your Attention?

I don’t know – do you have mine?

I was strolling through Costco a few days ago (if I miss a week the staff become anxious) when I overheard a young man speaking at a moderate volume into his earphone. He was speaking, but he was not listening. He was providing IT support to a client who either could not follow his instructions or was utilizing a wholly different program than the one under discussion.

I am not an eavesdropper, usually, but it was clear that he was shopping for groceries and envisioning a computer screen concurrently, and not doing either effectively. He repeatedly misinterpreted the problem and provided incorrect troubleshooting. He resembled many IT technicians who have stolen hours of my life without resolving my problem.

How do you know if you have someone’s attention, and are you also guilty of not listening effectively?

Here a few telltale and annoying signs of inattention on the other end of the phone:
• Papers rustling in the background – either the person is going through their mail, lost an important document or has vermin on their desk
• The conversation is one-sided but for the occasional “mm hmm” that passes for “I hear you”
• The same information is requested more than once
• You clearly hear the clatter of a keyboard that is not in sync with the conversation

Most of us can multitask to some extent, but none of us can anticipate the critical points in a conversation that require our full attention. If you miss that key sentence and find yourself fumbling to catch up, you have dropped the ball. Concentrate on the caller, or ask if you can call them back (the attorney, the expert, your mother). No one likes to repeat themselves.

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