Attention: The first component of the Thinking Environment
Updated: Jan 31, 2022
The first component of a thinking environment is the component of attention, and - of course - what we mean by attention is listening.
It's interesting, isn't it, that people talk about paying attention - and I actually do think of attention as if it is a currency. One of the things that I'm particularly interested in when I work with my organizational clients is inviting them to think about whether or not they are in credit or in debit when it comes to this particular currency of attention.
So what we mean by attention is listening, but listening in a particular way: listening with what we describe as palpable respect. In other words, the person being listened to feels your interest, it's palpable to them, and of course - if you're listening with genuine interest -and with palpable respect, then the thing that you won't be doing is interrupting.
Because those two things cannot coexist.
You can't say that you're genuinely interested in someone's thinking and then interrupt it.
There have been studies done with the use of magnetic resonance imaging MRI scans, that show that interruption is registered by the human brain in exactly the same way as being slapped in the face. In other words, as a physical violation, which is a rather horrifying realization, I think for most of us, because I haven't met a human being that doesn't interrupt other people.
It's one of the things that we learned - as we learned everything in life - by observation. We experienced it ourselves as children. And we noticed that the people who we looked up to and admired and for whom we depended on for our survival and our feelings of safety and security, they did this thing all the time, they regularly finished ours and other people's sentences for them.
So we learned to interrupt, and we haven't realized the incredible cost that that behavior has produced.
We can see the evidence of what that behavior has produced when we look around our world.
So when we offer attention in a thinking environment, what we're really saying back to the person is: "I really want to know what you think. I want to know what you think so much that I wouldn't dream of interrupting you."
It's a world of difference from being patient. When we're interested, patience isn't necessary.