How Attention shows up in everyday life
Imagine you’ve been invited to attend a special presentation. There are about a dozen people in the room. Just as the presentation is about to start, your boss asks you to read a report and share your initial reactions as soon as possible.
Do you ignore your boss’ message and pay full attention to the presentation? If so, you’ve decided to give Attention to the speaker.
Do you tell your boss you aren’t available because you have another obligation and you need more notice, returning your full attention to the speaker? If so, you gave Candor to your boss and Attention to the speaker.
Do you try to discreetly read ther report on your phone and respond while listening to the presentation? You are giving Procedure to your boss at the expense of Attention to the speaker.
Do you tell others around you that you need to address an urgent work matter so they know what you are doing while listening to the presentation? If so, you are giving Information to others, Procedure to your boss, but not Attention to the speaker.
This example illustrates the complexity and trade offs of respect. It demonstrates that the ways in which we want to get and give respect are not universal and can change depending on an individual’s preferences and the situation. The degree to which you expect this form of respect may depend on the power dynamics of your relationship.
Attention can look like:
- Listening attentively.
- Referring back to other people’s comments to indicate you were listening.
- Not interrupting except to ask clarifying questions.
Lack of Attention as a form of respect looks like:
- Interrupting to comment.
- Allowing for distractions.
How Attention can be interpreted differently
There are many different personal and professional reasons why someone would care about giving and/or getting Attention as a form of respect. Understanding your FoRs starts with asking yourself, why does this matter to me? Many people in our research talked about their families and childhood. Others focused on the demands of their current job function and company culture.
FoR provides a shared language to describe what you need. You’ll be able to use this language to navigate conflict and address misunderstanding. This can come up when you want a particular FoR of respect and you aren’t getting it. You can then share why the FoR matters to you.
Sue is a new leader at a company and she noticed that in group meetings, everyone has their laptop open and their phones facing up on the table. The team historically has not given Attention as a form of respect to one another. People openly multi-task. The first few times she leads the meeting she’s distracted by the multi-tasking. At her third meeting, she asks people to close their laptops and turn over their phones. “I know Attention doesn’t matter to most of you. It matters to me. I feel respected when I know you are focused on what I’m saying. For the early part of my career, people regularly couldn’t hear my contributions because they were distracted. They didn’t know I felt disrespected until I said something. The multi-tasking made me feel like whatever else they were working on was more important than me. Once I started asking for respect the way I needed it, they could hear my ideas and that’s how I got to where I am today.”
Rosa has a colleague, Ernie, who interrupts her constantly when they are talking. He inserts his own stories and comments. Finally, she tells him, “I need Attention as a form of respect and you constantly interrupt me. I wish you would just listen to me. Ernie is surprised, “In my culture, we
interrupt each other all the time, It’s my way of showing I’m interested and engaged. I didn’t mean to disrespect you and I’ll try to wait until you finish talking before I say something .”
Our preference for certain FoR are rooted in our past experiences. Explaining those experiences builds empathy with others. Use the FoR to find common ground with someone who wants to give or get respect differently than you do. Ask them about their past experiences and who influenced them.
Check out Dr. Julie Pham’s book, 7 Forms of Respect: A Guide to Transforming Your Communication and Relationships at Work.
Is Attention a form of respect for you?
Take the free quiz here.