The lost art of noticing

I was at a Christmas carol service last night. I arrived in good spirits after a meal with friends. As the service started I found my mind wandering back to the lively conversation we’d had at dinner. My thoughts then moved on to my Christmas shopping list. I suddenly became aware that I hadn’t been paying full attention to the amazing talented choir of young people. From that moment of realisation I put my thoughts aside and concentrated on what was going on in the moment. It felt amazingly relaxing to just soak up the wonderful candlelit atmosphere and beautiful music.

One key element of my coaching model is termed ‘The Art of Noticing’. I work with clients to help them pay more attention, to notice what’s around them, to notice other people and to notice themselves and their behaviours. The first step in any change is to pay attention. How much attention are you really giving to this blog? Do you give your partner your full attention when you arrive home tired and distracted by a tough day at work? How much attention do you pay in meetings, or do you half listen and spend the time catching up on your mails?

Distraction is the scourge of our modern life, exacerbated by the ubiquitous technology around us. It takes practice to improve our skills of noticing, so try this as a practice over the festive season. Make a conscious effort to take note of something about every person you meet. Perhaps the colour of their eyes, something they’re wearing, the way they walk, the way their face wrinkles when they smile, what words they put emphasis on. Paying attention not only improves relationships, it allows you to be more productive and creative. And, bonus, you’ll probably also find that people find you much better company as a result!

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