When You Fail To Give Attention

My dog Macie is so perceptive. She wanted to play while I wanted to check Twitter. I decided to try to do both and asked her to bring her Kong back for me to throw. She detected that I was trying to split my attention between her and the interwebs and she gave up. She wanted my complete attention. Sadly, this isn't the first time. If I choose something else to pay attention to, it hurts her feelings and she aware that she’s been rejected. She’ll pull away from me and likely pout as seen below.

This was taken 5 minutes before I started writing this post. I was checking Twitter in between playing with her and she detected within seconds that she didn’t have my full attention - hence the pout. (Sorry for the crappy photo, but this is real.)

This was taken 5 minutes before I started writing this post. I was checking Twitter in between playing with her and she detected within seconds that she didn’t have my full attention - hence the pout. (Sorry for the crappy photo, but this is real.)

Here’s the thing - this is my dog. Not my husband. Not an employee. My dog, who will happily eat her own poop if you let her. How much more do people recognize if you’re not paying attention to them? It’s obvious that people can tell when you don’t give them attention. But what are their reactions? What is the cost?

  • You can’t expect attention if you’re not willing to give it.

It’s mutual respect. If you disrespect and devalue someone by not listening to them, they will likely not feel obliged to listen in return. As soon as Macie sniffs out that I’m not completely interested in playing, she quits on me. She makes it clear that if I don’t want her, she doesn’t want me. I can’t get her to do what I want. In contrast, my sweet husband will almost always play with her and they’re closer because of it. He’s her best bud. If I can’t get her to do something, he can often persuade her.

  • People may react in brutish ways to get attention.

When my brother was three-ish years old and he wanted someone’s attention, he would abruptly grab their face and make them look at him. He would immediately start talking whenever they were facing him. It seems that we recognize early on what it takes to deliver the attention we desire. So it's understandable that this option is used when someone wants to feel valued enough to hold your attention. 

  • You can unintentionally create an environment of competition.

Similar to the last point, my brother did not like to compete with others for attention so he took it literally into his own hands to gain attention. When you do not fully engage with someone, they may feel that they have to compete with something or someone else for your attention. If you don’t listen and engage yourself with people at work, an environment of competition could be created.

  • You could be totally out of touch with what’s going on.

I saw this in a classic sitcom set up the other night on Friends - Joey inadvertently proposed to Rachel. Every time he went to tell her and set things straight, something came up and he didn’t have the chance. There is always some distraction, whether it be internal or external, that can keep you from giving attention to others. If there isn’t time given to listen to your people, you may have no idea what they are actually thinking, what is going on with your clients or what is happening in your business.

  • You miss out on relationships with amazing people.

I am the biggest loser when I fail to give attention. I regret the times when I've made the Internet, work, money, my to-do list, anything more important than people. I have consequently missed out on knowing some amazing people simply by failing to give them my full attention.

These points are not intended as selfish reasons to act selflessly. Instead they are meant to appeal to your head what you know to be right in your heart. The people around me are of more value than anything else I could be worrying about or doing. So are the people around you. Honor them above your spreadsheets today.