The Key to Listening ...

Steven Gaffney ...and Being Focused In a Conversation

The key to listening and being focused in a conversation is to bring notes! This may seem obvious, but sometimes people don't do it. Why? Because they feel awkward and uncomfortable. The good news is that there is an easy answer.

If you feel awkward about bringing notes to a particular conversation or meeting, just inform the person you're meeting with of any (or all) of the following reasons, and they will probably appreciate you for doing so: Memory, Ability to Listen, Focus, and Importance.

Bringing notes ensures that you will address every issue that you intend to cover. This is of course a benefit not only for you, but for the other person or persons as well. We have all walked out of a meeting or conversation having forgotten to mention something important. At that moment we face a dilemma: if we have another conversation we might be labeled a complainer who is never done with an issue. On the other hand, if we don't bring it up, the issue usually festers and gets worse. This is stressful, costly, and wastes valuable time. By bringing in notes you will ensure that you cover everything you want to, so that when you are done, you are done. Of course, this is also a benefit to the other person.

Bringing in notes will allow you to really listen to the other person or persons if they interrupt you and bring up an issue that they feel is important. Unfortunately, many people try to cope with interrupters by asking them not to interrupt until they are completely finished. The problem with saying that is that as soon as you say something the other person disagrees with, that person will stop listening and just tune out the rest of what you are saying, waiting for their turn to speak. Instead, by having the comfort of bringing in notes, you will be able to fully listen to them when they say something because you won't be preoccupied by the fear of forgetting what you were going to say. When the interrupter has finished making their comments, you can then simply go back to your notes.

Notes help prevent a conversation from wandering and keep the discussion focused on the intended purpose. This may seem obvious, but how many times have you walked away from a conversation or meeting and thought, "What was that all about? What did we accomplish?" By bringing in notes you will be able to better keep the conversation on track, which is a benefit to everyone.

Bringing in notes demonstrates to the other person that this conversation or meeting is very important and that you consider their time valuable. After all, how do you feel when you walk into a meeting and realize that there is no agenda and the person leading the meeting is not prepared? By bringing in notes you will make the other person(s) feel respected, appreciated and more likely to participate.

Explaining any or all of these four reasons allows people to bring notes into a wide range of personal and professional conversations and meetings-which is a benefit for everyone.

"Steven Gaffney is an professional speaker and author in the area of communication, motivation and leadership. He can be reached at (703) 243-7994 or 1-877-6Honest or e-mail Steven directly at"

Copyright 2003 by Steven Gaffney and the Steven Gaffney Company.

Category: Communicating
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