The Problem With Selective Attention

We are all guilty of the beast that is selective attention – this effectively boils down to whether we actually care what it is we have heard or see. In a nutshell this is whether the topic is relevant or interesting to us.

Effective communication is built around selective attention and is the dividing line between hearing and listening.  For example if we have to pass on an uninteresting message, it is likely to go in one ear and out the other.

So when somebody intercepts a message, and has to pass it on, often the message is scaled down/shorter than the original. This can mean staff are kept in the dark and never see the full picture behind decisions, which again, can be demoralising. This may pose more of a challenge to businesses who are under-going a lot of change and growth.

For example, a management team have weighed up their financial situation, potential for growth, and rising competition and have come to a decision to relocate office premises. This message is filtered through the organisation, where each manager takes away the little information which is relevant to their team, and by the time it reaches the lower level employees, all they are told is that they are moving at the end of the month. The effect of this delayed message leaves the employees with little information as to why they are moving, and how they fit into this change. This can be very demoralising.

The remedy for this is to make sure that the entire message is communicated – however tempting it might be to remove what could be irrelevant detail this is falling into the trap of selective communication which is then further amplified by selective listening!

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