I notice them at once. A woman and a man.
They sit catti-corner from me on a Thursday morning in a boulangerie in Bonn. The woman leans into the table, her left elbow resting on the table-top, a look of eager curiosity on her face as she listens to the man sitting across from her. The woman’s entire presence radiates a sense of supreme interest and delight in the conversation. The man is leaning forward, in turn, his face animated, his eyes alive as he speaks.
They’re not a romantic couple, of that I am sure. I don’t know their story, don’t know what these two are talking about. But their conversation has the aura of high engagement. My eyes settle back on the woman’s demeanor as she leans into the table. Perfect attending behavior, I think to myself.
It’s a term used in counselor training. I haven’t thought of attending behavior in years. But there it is, right in front of me, staring me in the face: Perfect attending behavior.
Attending behavior prods the other person to speak. I love the allusions of the term.
We attend to the other person.
We attend to how we show up in a conversation.
We pay attention.
There’s a reason why counselors are trained in attending behavior. It is, however, useful in most any context. Hyper-useful in a business conversation.
Attending behavior is often trivialized as body language. It is that, yes, and so much more. Here’s how it breaks down:
It’s the old chicken-or-the-egg question. Do we slip into attending behavior because we find ourselves in a stimulating conversation? Or does our attending behavior invoke the engaging conversation?
In ANY conversation that matters, lead with attending behavior.
Lead with it when a conversation promises to be interesting.
Lead with it when it doesn’t.
When we attend to the other person, we invoke a richer conversation, a more productive outcome, every single time.
And it’s so simple, isn’t it? Go Nike on this. Just do it.