A few years ago I had the rare privilege of meeting the famed mystery writer Mary Higgins Clark. I have read her suspenseful novels for years and I was eager to tell her how many pleasant hours I had spent “with her,” and how her prose helped to make a lot of air miles disappear as I traveled the country speaking at conventions.
We had both been invited to a reception for another author – a mutual friend – and to be frank, there were a lot of people in that hotel suite far more important to her than I was. I’ll guess that we spent three-to-four minutes visiting with one another but she made it feel like a good half-hour. How?
She listened with her eyes.
Not once did she look past me to see who else might rescue her from my grasp. Not once did she not-so-discreetly peer at her wristwatch, as if wondering, “When will this be over?” She gave me a true gift: her full attention.
I have thought a lot about that in the ensuing years. Like many of you, I have had encounters with lots of people and many of them weren’t as satisfying as that one. I suppose we have all had the busy boss who says he or she is listening while staring instead at papers on the desk… or the impatient clerk to whom we have voiced a complaint whose eyes are saying, “Spit it out and let me get on with what I was doing.”
I’ve even had a situation where I was consoling a man about the loss of his grandfather and during the entire conversation, the fellow was texting!
I guess we don’t do as much face-to-face communication these days, so maybe some of our skills… some of our manners (?)… have gotten a little rusty. I’m making a pledge to keep the focus where it belongs in all my conversations.
I’m going to do a better job of listening with my eyes.
Lou Heckler is a motivational humorist and business speaker with more than 40 years experience in managing, motivating and directing others. In 2010, readers of “Meetings and Conventions” Magazine named him as one of their favorite keynote speakers. He has been married since 1968 to five-times-published novelist Jonellen Heckler and they have a son Steve, daughter-in-law Johanna, and two granddaughters.