Summer provides us with precious opportunities to spend time with those we love. We may be spending more time working from home and have more meals with our family than we did pre-Covid, but how much attention and time are we really giving them?
One of the most powerful gifts that my mother gave her children was her undivided attention. And I want to share the lesson that it taught me.
When I say undivided attention, I mean giving your attention 100% on whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing at that moment. My mother was the first female consultant anesthetist in Ireland. It was a very busy job and it meant that she could often be up all night attending to victims of a car crash or performing an emergency Caesarian section. Nonetheless, she had a wonderful ability to come home and give her children her complete undivided attention. She sat close, she listened, looked at you straight in the eye and actively engaged in the conversation and made you feel that what you said mattered to her. She wasn’t looking at her mobile or checking her emails or doing chores while she half-listened to you. From a frantic pace in the hospital, she appeared to slow down and match the pace of the person she was listening to. She didn’t burden her kids with what she had left behind in the hospital. Complete, undivided attention and we felt it. So, when our mother had to return to the hospital often later in the evening, we never resented that time she was away from us. Bear in mind that she was giving us undivided attention while all the time knowing that she would return to the hospital to decide whether someone’s life support machine might need to be turned off.
So, who do you need to give your undivided attention to this Summer?
Here are a few ways to help you give your undivided attention.
- Close the laptop
- Move your mobile away from you while you have those conversations.
- Resist the urge to pick up the phone if it rings or buzzes
- Show sincere curiosity in the other person and in what they have to say
- Resist judging or offering advice and just listen in order to understand
- Keep the attention on them and don’t divert it onto you
- Look directly at them and encourage them to open up
- Find ways to encourage rather than critique
- Open your ears and listen to what is actually being said (and not what you think or guess what the person will say).
- And above all, enjoy your time together
There is no substitute for time. No toy, no activity is as precious as the time spent with each other. Children won’t remember how tidy the house was. They will remember the conversations you had.
How about you? Who needs your undivided attention this Summer? What can you change to give your undivided attention to those that matter the most?