paying attention or getting attention?


You know those people – friends and strangers – who are like cool drinks of water. How do you feel when they are around? What do they bring to the conversation? Do they invest time paying attention or getting attention?

My guess is that they pay more attention than jockey for it.

Last week, I listened to Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s TED Talk of how craving attention makes us less creative. It was thought provoking, self-effacing and spot on.

When we crave attention, we act in ways to maximize our visibility and minimize our time in thoughtful creative pursuit. It’s also annoying as hell to anyone within a 5-mile radius.

Think about it.

This weekend, I ventured out to a high spot in the Flint Hills with a friend who is keen at paying attention. We sat and watched the rain roll off of prairie hills. The conversation was easy. So easy.

Then I spent an evening at the lake with friends who pay attention rather than wrest attention. We laughed, sang Happy Birthday, listened to a toddler explore language and things in the grass, and sat together. The occasional quiet was neither unwelcome nor uneasy.

The only sustained connection I had this weekend with one wanting all the attention involved a giant fuzzy dog who wanted her super special ball. The same ball that she nosed under the chair (I watched her) as a ploy to get my attention. All of it. She also tried whining.

It’s a good thing I love that dog. If she were a human, I’d have to rethink the time I spend with her.

And this has me wanting to be sure I am listening. Watching. Paying attention.

Not whining. Or chasing bouncing things that serve only to distract.

I would rather have the creativity (credibility and friends, too) than the all-eyes-on-me.

Your thoughts? I am listening.

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