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Westside Toastmasters is located in Los Angeles and Santa Monica, California

CHAPTER 9

The Power of Attention

Our companions please us less from the charms we find in their conversation than from those they find in ours.

  -- FULKE GREVILLE

Here is a scenario that I'm sure is familiar to most everyone, particularly at the breakfast or dinner table. It sounds something like this:

She: "You aren't listening to me!"

He: "Yes I am!"

She: "No you're not!"

He: "I tell you I am!"

She: "I'm telling you you're not!"

He: "I am. I can repeat every damn word you said!" She: "I don't give a damn if you can. You aren't listening to me!

What she is really telling him is that even if he has 100 percent recall, he is failing to convince her that he is giving her his undivided attention.

Undivided Attention

Charm requires undivided attention -- especially when listening. Unless you're at a lecture, remembering what someone says is only a part of listening. If your attitude seems to be saying, "I don't care enough to bother to react to you" -- if nothing in your behavior confirms you are listening -- you are being a lousy listener. If there aren't any signals coming from you that say you're paying attention you aren't listening!

Good relationships, whether social or professional, are built on many qualities, but nothing is as important as being perceived as being an empathetic listener. The better listener you are, the more valuable you are in any relationship. But how do we know if somebody is listening with complete attention?

You do what great listeners do -- you signal that you are listening. Your behavior and body language should say, "I am totally focused on what you are saying; every word you utter is of extreme importance to me."

Those who send this signal are termed "attentive listeners." Those who don't are called "inattentive listeners."

Give Acknowledgments and Assurances

We refer to these signals as "acknowledgments and reassurances." Attentive listeners use them to acknowledge the other person's presence and reassure them they are totally involved in the act of listening. Attentive listeners project that "in the moment" focus that makes people feel special and important. The more of these signals you practice, the more charming you will appear.

Your Tools for Charming Others

The next time you are conversing with someone, make a special effort to acknowledge and reassure that person that you are fully engaged in the conversation and involved in what he is saying. Face the person directly and concentrate on his words. Act as if this is the last time you will ever see him. Learn how to signal to the person that you are paying attention.

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