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The art of listening, from observing the Parisiens

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Paris - not a mobile device in sight!

A few years ago I went to Paris with my family. Vive la France! 

After walking the Louvre, we found a restaurant to eat. We were starving hungry and ready to hit our next location on our jam-packed itinerary.

In the time we sat down for lunch, ordered, wolfed our food down, checked our mobile devices and uploaded our latest Mona Lisa shots and paid the server, I had watched several Parisiens in neighboring tables hardly drink their coffee. These people listened to the other person with great intensity. What was even more curious – they didn’t have their mobile devices on their tables.

Hold on, what prompted me to write about this 2-3 years later?

It was after having two conversations at The Marriott recently when various international contacts who took the time to meet for breakfast and lunch. 

The conversations were riveting. Their lives rich and full. There was open communication. There were lots of action points, and all was well. 

But, unlike me who had my device firmly nestled in my laptop bag to ensure I didn’t get distracted and honor their time – my breakfast and lunch partners had their devices next to their plates and regularly checked up on them. 

It’s understandable. They’re executives running multi-million dollar international companies. This wasn’t a powerplay by them. But the difference I see, time and time again from dining in LA, New York, San Francisco, London compared with having a lunch or breakfast with someone from Montreal, or Paris is profoundly different.

Western society is distracted. I know it because I am too. I’m no digital angel. 

Three takeaways:

1. When you’re distracted by your mobile device, you’re missing key signals from the other person who can share more information with you.

2. When you have your mobile device with you next to your meal, you’re not recharging your brain from constant cognitive demands. When you’re in a real conversation, it’s not dissimilar to meditation – it can feed you (not just the other person)

3. Keeping your mobile device tucked away helps you to relax and digest your food properly. I’m sure our mothers told us we should digest our food properly.

Now, don’t get me wrong, my etiquette is far from perfect and would be happy for some radical candor on how to be a better listener.

Just try tucking away your mobile device and see how your conversation and sense of happiness bloom.

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