Give the Gift of Attention: Three Steps You Can Take Today

by | Nov 22, 2016

phone on table

I’m a big fan of giving thanks for all the great things in life. This year, let’s turn Thanksgiving upside down. Let’s give those around us something to be thankful for.  And, I have the perfect thing – your attention.

A friend recently said to me, “The most precious gift you can give someone is your attention.” That idea stuck.  Today’s world is cluttered with demanding gadgets that beep and buzz insistently until attended to; pop-ups that relentlessly hog the screen and bully their way to the forefront.  In that world, attention becomes a precious bit of energy that we pilfer away carelessly.

Here are three actions you can take right now to be more responsible with your attention and in the process, give others your most precious gift.

  1. Your next meeting. In the very next meeting you participate in or lead, walk in the door, sit down and put your phone conspicuously on the table face down and don’t touch it until you leave. As conversation unfolds, look each person in the eye and listen. Notice their reaction and the quality of the relationship that is generated by simply giving of your attention.
  2. Visitors in your office. You are knee-deep in emails when your co-worker walks in the door. Stop typing; remove your hands from the keyboard and turn to face your guest. For the next few minutes, give them your full attention. Perhaps you’ll find that you reach resolution quicker or you generate more interesting ideas together or, maybe, the person feels heard. That last one is indeed a precious gift.
  3. The others. This last one is my personal favorite.  As you go about your day, notice all the small interactions you have with the other people like Tim, the person taking your order at Panera; Joyce, the checker at the grocery store; or Juanita, the bank teller (all people I encountered today). Maybe for you it’s Julio who makes your coffee or Susie at the dry cleaners. Whoever it is, for each of them, pause, make eye contact, hold eye contact, smile and engage in momentary conversation. The exchange may not last a minute and yet it matters. These are people accustomed to being overlooked.  When you instead give attention to them, notice how they brighten.  At last someone recognizes them as a human. And all it cost you was a moment of attention.

And for me, I would like to thank you for reading. Through reading you give me the gift of your attention. For that I am most grateful. This year, more than others, I feel keenly the comfort that your attention provides. Now, I hope you go and share the gift of your attention with others.


  1. phillip Lamb

    Very well said and stated thanks I do try some of this but not all the time will endeavor to do so and have printed this so it’s in front of me daily

  2. Lori Targett

    Shelly, Thank You for your information I hope you don’t mind but I shared it on Facebook. I am so touched with your lessons they are more personal to me than you will ever know, I Pray that more people will turn to their better side and treat others the way that God intended us to be. I don’t know if you have ever been told this, but I am going to share a feeling I have had about you ever since I first met you at a class that you taught, for ITD (Idaho Transportation Department) this summer, I feel that you are a Godly woman and I taken what you said and are still saying and placed them with my teachings that I have learned from studying the Holy Bible, to make me a better person. You my dear friend are and inspiration to many and I thank you for that. I will keep you in my prayers that you reach out to many, many, more people and touch their hearts and mind, THANK YOU keep on doing a great job

    Your Friend and Sister in Christ

  3. James

    Could not agree more. I give anyone I am talking to eye contact and acknowledge comments when I can. I recognize this in contact I have with you and appreciate so much your undivided attention. Just know you have mine also! This is one of my favorite desires; to know the other party is listening and I will give them the same courtesy. Thanks Shelley


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Author Byline: Founder and CEO of Blue Fjord Leaders, Shelley Row P.E. CSP, was named by Inc. Magazine as one of the top 100 leadership speakers. Professional engineer and former senior executive, she was recognized as one of the best minds in advanced traffic management systems.

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