Why You Must Overcome Continuous Partial Attention & How to Do It!

Former Apple & Microsoft executive Linda Stone coined the term “continuous partial attention” to describe repeatedly splitting attention between multiple sources. Most of us think of this as multi-tasking.

In the context of serving customers, “continuous partial attention” is a growing challenge for service professionals – mainly thanks to electronic devices. You’ve likely received subpar service from service providers glancing at their phones, listening to music, or taking personal calls. So in the context of multiple technology distractions, here are a few reminders to help maintain customer focus.

Adopt the “Fully Present Rule”: The “Fully Present Rule” isn’t just about politeness; it’s about maximizing the potential of each interaction, be it with a client or a team member. When you dedicate your complete attention to the interaction at hand, it creates an atmosphere of respect. It communicates the importance you place on the other person and the subject.

Minimize Distractions: In our digitized era, distractions are a mere click or beep away. Emails, social media notifications, and phone calls are a regular part of our lives, but they can significantly impact our professional interactions. Keeping these digital intrusions at bay during professional interactions can lead to a substantial enhancement in service quality. You can listen attentively, respond effectively, and address concerns more accurately by minimizing interruptions. When your attention isn’t divided between tasks, you can provide a better, more personalized service, significantly boosting client satisfaction and retention.

Create a ‘Fully Present Zone’: To address the issue of divided attention, consider creating what I call a “Fully Present Zone.” This is where you set up the rule that complete attention to the present task is required. Such a zone could be a specific meeting room, office, or virtual space.

Establishing a ‘Fully Present Zone’ promotes a culture of mindfulness and attention, encouraging all involved parties to focus entirely on one another and the task or interaction at hand. Conscious effort to stay present leads to more productive meetings and discussions.

I’ll end this post with what your colleagues and customers can gain as you reduce distractions and offer them undivided attention. Think of how you will benefit as you leave others feeling more:

  • Valued: Full attention demonstrates that you appreciate the thoughts, ideas, and feelings of others. This affirms their worth.
  • Respected: By putting aside distractions, you show that you value the time of customers and colleagues and seek to engage them wholeheartedly.
  • Heard: Undivided attention involves active listening and makes people feel understood, leading to constructive communication and stronger relationships.
  • Necessary: A person feels essential when they receive undivided attention. This enhances self-esteem and increases their engagement.
  • Safe and Comfortable: When someone pays full attention, it creates a safe space for open communication. As a result, people feel comfortable expressing their ideas and feelings.
  • Connected: Undivided attention encourages a feeling of connection and intimacy. Whether in a personal or professional context, interpersonal focus fosters trust and collaboration.

To reduce traffic accidents, distracted driving campaigns encourage drivers not to attend to digital devices through slogans like “Put it down” and “It can wait.” In the realm of business and interpersonal relationships, those slogans also have merit, but I’ll add my own:

“Undivided attention is a gift. Practice giving it. See what gifts you and your business receive in return.”

To increase the undivided attention your customers and team members receive, please contact me at josephmichelli.com/contact.

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Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies.

Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli

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