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Pay Attention


Rush Nigut makes a wonderful point about the importance of being observant, and he separates listening from observation in saying in the comments, "You need to observe rather than listen." I think both are equally important. I'll explain...

A few years ago, I was trading email with my friend, Bella, and she said something that stuck with me: she said that it's all about paying attention. By paying attention, we can salvage any relationship in our lives that might be in trouble, be it with a customer, a friend, or a spouse. People are flattered when you pay attention to them.

Have you ever gone into a store and seen a clerk remember someone's name and favorite order? "The usual today, Mrs. Jones? The caramel cappuccino with a half-twist of lemon and a sprinkle of nutmeg?"

Didn't that person feel important? Didn't you think they were important as you watched this exchange?

Or what about when your significant other hands you your Christmas gift and it's something you mentioned in passing 6 months ago while walking through the mall?

Moments like these cement loyalty big time.

Rush is right - observation is key, and incidents like these show that we are observant.

In his book, The Relationship Cure, John Gottman says this:

While understanding metaphors and all the various forms of nonverbal communication can boost your ability to connect with others, you won't get far without a strong foundation of good, basic listening skills. Your knack for drawing others out and expressing genuine curiosity about their lives can be a real boon to bidding for connection and establishing satisfying relationships. Good listening skills can help you to feel easy in all sorts of social situation, and to build the kind of rapport that leads to solid emotional bonds.
Observation is irreplaceable, and I think the same attentiveness that we show through observation is exhibited in our listening.

Dale Carnegie said:

"You can make more friends in two months by becoming genuinely interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you."
People have to see that we're paying attention. Listening does that in conversation through the use of questions and body language. Observation can too, but I think it's tougher to show it through observation. Because perception = reality, we might be paying devout attention by observing, but I don't know that people would get the message that we're clued in. And they need that. They need to see indications that we're focused on them. Listening, and what we communicate verbally and nonverbally when we do listen, signals that we're paying attention in a more immediate sense than just observation can.

I'm totally diggin' the comments these days. Lots of smart insight, and I hadn't yet considered observation in this thread of Listen Well posts, but I will.

Thanks Rush!


Tags: john gottman | relationships | listening
by Brett Rogers, 6/27/2007 11:12:45 AM


Thanks for the great stuff you are writing and your kind words. Your recent posts are thought provoking. You are absolutely right, listening and observation are both critical. But again I think the scale tips slightly in favor of observation because people often don't say what they really think or at other times people just don't tell the truth. You can listen to them but that might not give you the accurate picture. After all actions speak louder than words, right?

I know I am taking a slightly different angle but it is kind of fun to consider. Keep up your efforts - maybe there is a book in the making.




Posted by Rush Nigut (, 6/27/2007 10:23:15 PM

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