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 If you, or someone you know, is looking to become a more effective networker, then Focused Attention is a great listening technique to help you achieve that goal.

Fact: The human brain, on average, can think at a rate of 400 to 450 words per minute; the average person, however, can only talk at a rate of 100 to 150 words per minute.

Let’s say you’re at a networking event, and you’re listening to a really fast talker, maybe somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 words per minute.  And while that person is talking, let’s say your brain is thinking at a rate of 400 words per minute.  So if you’re thinking at a rate of 400 words per minute, and the person you’re talking to is speaking at a rate of 150 words per minute, then what you do with that “extra” capacity (400 minus 150 words per minute) is going to determine how good a listener you are.

Focused attention says to concentrate 100% of your attention on the message the other person is communicating.  Where is Your Attention Focused?  Are you planning your response while the other person is talking, or are you understanding their point and making a few mental notes to help you in that process?  Are you scanning the room trying to find the next person you want to meet, or when someone walks over, do you stop what you’re doing, and devote your full attention to this person?

The reason most people aren’t very good listeners, is because during most discussions, they’re spending their “extra” intellectual capacity (those extra 250 words we were just talking about) on everything other than the conversation at hand.  And in today’s email typing, pager answering, voicemail checking world where “multi-tasking” is very much en vogue, everyone seems to be doing two or three things at once.

Recommendation: At your next networking event, make it a point to “block out” everyone else in the room and focus your mental attention on what this person is saying.

A friend of mine once told me that he met somebody who went a step further than that: Whenever someone walked into his office, he physically removed whatever documents he was working on off of his desk, and then redirected his attention to that person.  Wow!  Now that sends a powerful message.  Imagine if you could send that exact same message to someone else in your life.  It could be your spouse talking about their day at the dinner table, or a prospect at work.

Concentrating 100% of your attention on that person is a surefire way to make them feel that their message is being valued.  And at the end of the day, isn’t that what being a good listener is all about?

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