Image by Graphic Mashup/Flickr
Gimme one second… wait… I know I should be opening this article, but my son just texted me and… let me see… why is this so complicated?… I just want to check the movie times… no, I don’t want Bridgeport, I want Norwalk – why doesn’t this website know my preferences by now?… Okay… Okay… Got it. Now, where were we?
Did I just make you feel important?
Chances are, through my inattention, I inadvertently gave you the impression that you don’t matter to me.
That’s what happens when you don’t pay attention. If you’re like most people, you mess up a lot of career opportunities because you don’t pay attention. You accidentally slight or outright insult others, without even knowing it.
For example, if you’re shy, colleagues may think you are aloof or cold.
There is a selfish, personal aspect to likability. We tend not to like people who don’t like us. Call this petty or immature, but it’s true.
I’d argue that if a person you initially dislike gives you enough sincere personal attention, you probably will grow to like them a bit more. If you already like someone, this sort of personal attention will further strengthen your feelings.
Here’s the problem: for many of us, inattention runs rampant. We mistakenly believe that we can multitask. If you believe this to be true, try juggling three balls while also having an intense, personal conversation. I’m not making an analogy here; I literally mean: try juggling three balls.
You can’t do it. Sure, you can pay vague attention to another person while checking your text messages or thinking about what to eat for dinner, but you can’t maintain the sort of intense personal focus that makes you likable.
By the way, the image I used at the top of this piece is eye-catching, but it appears to suggest that the path to likability is to... hypnotize (?) others. Obviously, that's not true. But the right path does require similar focus. Be interested in them, rather than in getting them to do something.
Truth be told, this requires a bit of practice. You want to pay attention, but not overwhelm people. Here are three simple ways to get started:
1. Listen more than you talk.
Being with someone is not the same thing as paying attention. I have a few friends who can spend an hour in a room with me and never once ask a single question about my life, experiences or perceptions.
2. Ask questions that prove you are listening.
To prove that you understand what someone is saying, ask questions that build on the points they are making. For example, if you and I were talking right now, you might say, “So by not paying attention, I’m making myself less likable, right?”
Yep, that’s it exactly.
3. Dig deeper.
If you want to have 100 discussions about the weather each week, stick with superficial questions. Personally, this bores me to tears. I’d much rather ask questions that surprise you and make you think, such as, “Besides money, what stops you from quitting your job and taking a year to travel the world?”
Being genuinely curious about another person’s life makes you more appealing. The same is true when you’re looking for a job… the best way to ace an interview is to do your research in advance and deeply understand the interviewer’s business.
This article originally appeared on LinkedIn. Read article comments...