I’ve found that one of the hardest skills today is just listening and being with someone. We’re constantly barraged with things demanding our attention.

The biggest attention-grabber is that device in our pocket. As if it’s ever actually in our pocket.

But as humans, we crave to have relationships with other people. To be understood and appreciated for who we are.

But this is a skill you can practice and learn.

Start off with a book or magazine article. Remember those? Focus on appreciating the depth of what they’re saying. Ponder the implications. Explore whether you have additional thoughts on the matter.

All without looking at any electronic device, or other things demanding your attention.

Next, focus on doing that with a child. Try to fully be there for them – first for a minute, then five, then ten. No other distractions to worry about at that time, just see how fully you can engage.

Then try it with your spouse or friend. Have a meal where devices are allowed to interrupt you. Talk about what’s going on in your life, what brings you joy. And engage with the person across from you.

This is actually the top coaching skill. I was shocked when I found that out – how hard could it be? Just to listen to someone?

Well, it turns out that listening at the surface is not really engaging with someone. You have to get into managing your attention and engaging emotions. Doing all that WHILE listening to the words is actually pretty tough work, and takes a lot of practice.

But boy, do we need it these days!