Do This and Your Conversations Will Never Be the Same

Now this will make a real difference in your conversations with family, friends, co-workers, and others you interact with every day.attention.jpg

This is a quality I first recognized in the man who would eventually become my father-in-law.

I had graduated from college and was living in North Alabama. My longtime friend from Dallas had come to visit me. I wanted to introduce him to Charlotte’s father. (Charlotte and I had begun dating.) He was the president of a small Bible college. I had come to admire him and wanted my friend to meet him. As we entered his office, he invited us to sit down. He then picked up his telephone and asked his assistant to hold his calls:

“I have two gentlemen in my office.” (We were 22 years old. Neither one of us was used to being referred to as a gentleman.)

For a few minutes, he gave us his undivided attention.

I never forgot that moment.

This is where I learned the value of giving another person one’s undivided attention.

Far too often, what people receive instead is our divided attention.

  • A parent is talking with her child. Yet, as she talks, she continues to look at her phone. She checks her text messages and even sends a few texts. Meanwhile, the child is doing the same with her own phone.
  • Two people go to lunch together. Yet, instead of giving one another undivided attention, they continue to check their telephones for texts, voice messages, new tweets, Facebook status updates, etc.
  • A parent sits in his car waiting in line to pick up his young child from school. The parent talks on the phone as he waits. Finally, the child approaches the car. As the child opens the car door, the dad smiles at the child but continues to talk on the telephone. The child fastens his seat belt and they slowly drive away with the dad still talking on the telephone. Is this an urgent call? Perhaps. Yet, many teachers observe this almost every day. The child looks forward to seeing her mom or dad. Yet, she is not greeted by a parent giving undivided attention. Instead, mom or dad continues to talk on the phone.

Technology is wonderful. But something is wrong when we allow technology to get in the way of real live face to face communication with other people. There really is a time to ignore the devices and give another human being a very important gift:

Your undivided attention.

Listen to what that person is saying. Listen to the words and to the emotion behind the words.

Pay attention to that person. Give that person your full attention.

Be fully present.

Give a person your undivided attention and your conversations will never be the same.


Can you recall a particular time when another person gave you undivided attention? How did this feel?


Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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9 thoughts on “Do This and Your Conversations Will Never Be the Same

  1. I have been blessed by the undivided attention of so many people. My parents and grandparents hung on every word as I told story after story. Their willingness to listen taught me I was important and shaped who I am today.

    The other day i was on a feild trip with a group of 5th grader. I hoped to send a quiet few minutes on the bus ride, but my seat partner had other plans. He talked and talked and talked, and as I listened I began to see how important my presence was. Not because I was doing anything special, but simply because I was there.

    Jim, you are right on becasue as we give our undivided attention, we are practicing the presence of God.

    • Kevin, I love the opening lines of your comment. What a blessing to have had parents and grandparents who paid attention to your words and stories. Wow!

      Your field trip experience is a reminder to me that so often our presence in a variety of situations is more significant than we might realize. Thanks for the reminder.

      Hope you are doing well, Kevin.

  2. We should be slow to speak and quick to listen….had a friend stop by not to long ago and poured his heart out to me and he really needed that catharsis

  3. My wife will consistently stop doing whatever it is she is doing….look at me and listen. It is so intentional that I notice it and it always makes me want to do the same for her. There is such a strong message of “I love, appreciate, and value you enough to be truly present” in a small act of folding up the paper….or closing a book….setting them aside and looking at the person that is speaking. Good stuff – and I admit that my wife is SO much better at it than I am. But I am encouraged to grow in this area because of her…..even after 27 years of marriage! 🙂

    • David,
      What your wife does with her body language must be very powerful! She must really communicate that she is fully present with you.

  4. I have a friend who is really good at this. It makes me feel very special. And I always wished I could do that for other people. But I think I’m a bit more distractible. 🙂

    • L. L., I like what you say regarding your friend and how it makes you feel. It is interesting what such attention does to another human being. It would be interesting to know how you friend is when she is with you (what she does that communicates that she is fully present, etc.).

  5. This hit home… I was literally reading this blog while my sweet boy was chatting at me— and I most certainly was NOT giving him my undivided attention. Ahh… he just walked in again to tell me something. this time I stopped, took my hands off the keys, looked him in the eyes and engaged. He only needed 2.2 minutes of my attention. What a difference! Thank you for the reminder.

    • Stephanie, I suspect that many of us can relate the story you told about you and your son. Isn’t it interesting how much can really happen in 2.2 minutes? 🙂 I experienced the same kind of thing. I can give my children a few totally undivided minutes and it means so much to them. Then again, I am just like them. I know what it means to me when someone REALLY listens or REALLY gives me their attention. It is significant.