The Relationship Journey – Attention

Here is the fourth of a series of brief blogs introducing The Relationship Journey in my chapter on Active Listening from The Journey Inside. Today is all about Attention.

From our first days at school, we were told to, “Pay attention”, and later in life, we were accused of, “Not paying attention”. In many cases, of course, we weren’t paying attention, in others though, we believed we were.  So why is there a difference?

We believe that simply being in front of someone is enough to hear them, which from a hearing perspective is enough.  However, from a listening perspective, this is inadequate.  We need to give the speaker our full attention.

You know when, at a deep level, whether or not the person in front of you is paying attention to you or not.  If not, we stop thinking, we get confused, (as someone shared, “we start thinking stupid”), and we may even stop talking altogether.

When they pay attention, it feels different…

What might this attention feel like?

Think back to a time when you had a particular problem, and you were able to share it with a close friend.  You were able to share your problem fully, even though you paused and went quiet a couple of times because you wanted to make sure your thoughts were in the right order.

You recall that the person listening had their eyes on you all of the time, not staring at you, just a gentle gaze.  They did not interrupt you, which is unusual, they seemed comfortable with the silences and gaps in the conversation and did not try to fill them.  They were calm and still throughout the time you were speaking.

Best of all, you felt they were interested in what you had to say; you felt validated, heard, and that your words mattered.  Overall, you felt, at that moment, you were the most important person to them.

When you give someone your full attention it can feel like, to them, the greatest gift they could have ever received.


Colin D. Smith
Colin D. Smith
COLIN is ‘The Listener’, a listening skills specialist and the ‘go-to’ person for individuals and teams who want to be heard, think for themselves, and transform their business and personal relationships through active listening. Colin has that innate ability to actively listen to people. He works with management, project and creative teams, facilitating the development and improvement of their listening and thinking skills. Thereby equipping them to more effectively meet their business, relationship and service challenges. He also works privately with individuals, enabling them to feel heard and valued, to think more clearly for themselves, articulate their creative ideas, address their personal concerns, and achieve their personal and professional goals. Colin has had a varied and successful career in consultancy, business development, IT and customer support, across many sectors, including finance, motor, retail and the NHS. In looking back he realises that much of his success was due to his listening and connecting abilities. His inquisitive and curious mind also enables him to explore, with others, unusual, thought-provoking, yet grounded, observations and alternative approaches to business, people, systems, and change. To make things happen, and to take ideas and thinking further, he connects his Clients with his trusted network of entrepreneurs, consultants, thought leaders, free thinkers, coaches and change makers.

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  1. Thanks, Colin.

    One of my favorite books, back when I was teaching high school English, was “How Does a Poem Mean?” by John Ciardi. He mentions ‘the pleasure of taking pains.’

    I worked as a carpenter for a time, and I still love using my hands (you might read “The Hand” by Frank R. Wilson – it’s remarkable). I switched a couple of years ago to hand tools only (with a couple of exceptions). That slows me down and collects my intelligence, emotions, even my spiritual connection, much more effectively. Maybe the same is true of listening. Hmmmmm.

    Be good. And well.

    • Hi Mac, thank you for sharing your thinking, and for your suggestions.

      I love your analogy/metaphor for listening. Thinking about it, it works. There is a much deeper connection to the piece of wood with which you are working and it will come out in the end product.

      My sense is that working with hand tools deepens the connection to the wood and the end result. I see this as being a woodworker, rather than doing woodworking, which looks and feels different. I believe if we spent more time in being, exploring, understanding, and deepening our connection, before we do our doing it would positively impact our doing as well as positively impacting those who are recipients of our doing. The more you are connected to your wood, the more of that will be felt by the person who receives your wood worked piece.

      Take care and stay well Mac


  2. Thank you Jeff for reading and for sharing your thinking. I love what you have said, and agree. When we skip, sure we can get the gist of what the book is about, and when we read it, we obviously know even more about it. But when we give the book our full attention, get consumed by it, we get an experience of it, like no other, it feels like a knowing. Wonderful metaphor. Colin

  3. “When you give someone your full attention it can feel like, to them, the greatest gift they could have ever received.” Well said, Colin. The same can be said for reading. How many of us skim instead of really reading? We’re too consumed to get to the next article and the next article and the next article just like we’re consumed by wanting to respond to what someone is saying.