When Austin (my oldest son) started kindergarten, I worked from home and spent my days with Hayden (my younger son) … usually just the two of us. Our typical house chaos included 2 very active boys, so time without the older brother gave Hayden and me a chance to bond (a really great experience) at least until Austin came home from school. You see, both of my boys were super early talkers - they didn’t have a choice. I started talking to them from conception on, so it didn’t surprise me when they both started talking and really never stopped. Before I could even ask Austin, “How was your day?” he started sharing every detail - from getting out of the car at morning drop off to that very moment he got back into the car when we picked him up after school. Austin talked as we got out of the car. Austin talked as we walked into the house. Austin talked as we sat down on the couch. One day, Hayden felt that Austin had talked enough, so he climbed into my lap, put both hands on my cheeks, and gently turned my face away from Austin to look into his eyes and began babbling about his day. Hayden was obviously sick of me giving Austin so much attention.
Fast forward to another little brother - Clint, our new puppy. Clint joined the Hardegree family back in November (see the blog on Nov. 7). Until Clint, Maggie spent almost 3 years as an only child-dog, but she seems to have adjusted well to her new “big sister” role and now even enjoys Clint’s playfulness (sometimes!). But Clint isn’t always as willing to share my attention. If I am loving on Maggie, he will squeeze under my arm to sit in my lap and work to get between me and Maggie. He gets sick of me giving Maggie too much attention and will do what he can to let me know he needs attention too.
Although Hayden and Clint’s attention-getting strategies may not work for you in the workplace (please don’t try either one!), there are strategies you can use to make sure that you get needed attention and, more importantly, give needed attention for more effective communication.
Get undivided attention - work to find the best time and place to communicate. Don’t stop someone in the hallway or start a new discussion five minutes before a staff meeting. Schedule the discussion and make sure all participants plan for the time needed to complete the communication objectives.
Give undivided attention - to truly give someone the required attention for a successful communication experience, you need to focus only on the experience. When talking on the phone, don’t do other tasks. When meeting face-to-face, shut your door, put down your phone, and don’t look at your computer screen. Take notes during the discussion to help you focus.
Get feedback - during the communication experience, seek feedback. Ask questions. Solicit comments or observations. Invite the sharing of similar experiences.
Give feedback - restate, summarize, reflect, and clarify during the communication experience. Use positive affirmation. Validate what is being said. Ask questions and share experiences.
In our fast-paced world, we sometimes forget the importance of getting and giving attention. I love that we use the phrase “pay attention” as it evokes that attention is a commodity with value and usefulness. etc Strategies believes that using strategies to get and give attention will create more successful and effective communication experiences. But I’m pretty sure Clint will use his strategy of climbing into my lap for attention. It works for him every time!!