I know I am not the only one who feels ignored when my dinner partner has a phone in their hand, and especially now in the age of the attention economy, it takes a little work to remember our manners and really pay attention when we are in the company of others.
Additionally, upon reopening, we’ve been challenged to practice our social skills all over again, and as a result, eye contact is becoming a more surprising and even a disarming experience after such a long time conducting meetings through facetime and zoom. It’s tempting to avoid the gaze of the person you’re talking to, whether out of boredom or more likely social anxiety. But giving full attention to someone requires more than just your ears, though, a practice called intentional listening. Intentional listening is a practice because no one is ever really perfect at it, but the idea is to listen without distraction. “Distraction” here covers a pretty broad territory, as distractions could be anything from scrolling on your phone to comparing their words against your own preconceived notions or judgments.
This also means that while you are maintaining eye contact you resist the urge to distract them, through trying to finish their sentences, or nodding your head, or reacting visually to what they are saying. Think about the times you have truly felt heard by the person you are talking to: were they looking at their phone? Were they compulsively nodding? Getting back into the public sphere means seeing a lot of people who have a lot to catch you up on, which makes right now a great time to begin working on soft skills like listening fully. Practice holding space for people beginning with letting go of your internal hamster wheel of thoughts, sitting down with a cup of coffee, steadying your gaze, and dropping into deep conversation. Your relationships will richen in ways you never knew possible.
– Colleen, Sacred Hour Massage Therapist + Head Staff Writer