Yesterday, I did a keynote speech with Jeb Blount. A keynote is normally one person speaking, but the client asked us to speak together to close out their conference. So we got together and built a little slide deck and decided to sit on stools and take turns speaking.
It took a lot of trust, but we decided that when one of us finished speaking, they’d just stop talking, and the other person would just start speaking. There was no weird, repetitive handoff, like “Jeb, what do you think?” It worked perfectly.
Listen Up Now
One of the points we hammered home was the importance of listening. We were driving home ideas about how you treat people, and how poor treatment makes people feel unimportant, like they are a transaction. While Jeb was sharing how critical it is to look people in the eye, to listen deeply to what isn’t being said, and to focus all of your attention on the person speaking, I took out my cell phone and started flipping through screens, ignoring Jeb and ignoring the audience of 500 people. When Jeb finished speaking, I didn’t say anything. I waited an uncomfortably long time, until Jeb said, “Anthony?“
I looked up and asked our audience how bad that felt having someone who was supposed to be deeply engaged with them deeply engaged with his phone instead. I asked them if they felt insulted while I was busy ignoring them, and if they felt unimportant. They agreed that the experience was awful for them. And they agreed that they use a different screen, but that they don’t always give their clients their full attention because they are busy on a screen.
Look Up Now
This is what we do now. This is who we are becoming.
- We have an individual in front of us who needs our full attention, and we instead look at the small screen of infinite distractions.
- We have a chance to connect with people who are important to us—and to our business—and we ignore them, choosing instead to pay attention to people who are far away from us.
- We act as if we might miss something on the Internet, even though nothing disappears from the Internet while the opportunity to connect with a real person does.
- We fear the wrong danger.
The people who are able to exercise the self-control necessary to give another person their full attention are going to have a commanding advantage over the people with crooked necks who can’t pull themselves away from the small screen of infinite distractions.