Attentiveness vs. distraction

Showing the worth of a person or task by giving my undivided concentration.

How do you feel when you are trying to explain something to someone, and they pay little or no attention to you? It can be extremely frustrating, can't it? Whether it is life-or-death information or simple instructions for cleaning a messy room, whether you are talking to someone with great authority or no authority at all - to be ignored in any degree hurts! We all have value and should respect each other, remembering that there is a time for talking and a time for listening.

Attentiveness involves aiming one's concentration toward another, waiting on that one, and taking hold of what we receive with expectation of benefit. Attentiveness is a discipline for maximizing our information gain by improving the quality of our observation skills. Patiently listen to others and look for value in their words, their motive for sharing, and the concepts behind their ideas.

In 1744, George Washington learned a valuable secret for character development. He learned to exercise personal character with short, specific applications - including several practical ideas for attentiveness. At the age of 14, Washington diligently wrote down 110 rules under the title "Rules of Civility and Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation." These rules were drawn from an English translation of a French book of maxims and were intended as practical instructions for developing good character. "In the presence of others, sing not to yourself with a humming noise, nor drum with your fingers or feet" is one of the examples of the applications.

In developing attentiveness, take counsel from Washington's example. Do not shuffle papers or read while someone is trying to speak to you. Avoid fidgeting and other distracting habits. It is often these things that cause offense and distraction to others. Be aware of your mannerisms and what they might communicate.

Attentiveness is "showing the worth of a person or task by giving my undivided concentration." Drawing attention from others to oneself is an expression of disrespect. Sarcasm and critical comments, in particular, draw attention to oneself at the expense of others. Give others your full attention when they "have the floor." Be considerate of their words even after they have finished speaking. By being a good listener to others, you will earn the right to be heard when you have something to say.

Brought to you by the Four Corners Character Council. Character First definitions and information used by permission. Copyright Character Training Institute