Has Your Attention Span Gotten Shorter?

Today I coached a client who is looking for a new job. He told me something that happened in a job interview and it made my skin crawl.

The interviewer asked him some challenging questions that required a good deal of thought. My client needed a few seconds to think about his responses. When he didn’t reply instantly, the interviewer became impatient, picked up her smart phone, and started texting.

No apology. No explanation. Just plain rudeness and disrespect.

As a culture, we’ve become addicted to our devices. The other night I was in a restaurant and at one point I scanned the room. I noticed at least seven people using their phones while they were dining with other people (not to mention several folks who were staring at the TVs mounted in the restaurant).

I’ve keep hearing that this is an era of being ‘super-connected’–always online and always in touch. Yes, we have more ways to stay in touch and more online friends, but it seems to me that our communication has become more about quantity than quality.

Don’t get me wrong: I think that smart phones, tablets, and computers are wonderful tools. But they’re addictive. If there’s a screen anywhere in the room, it’s hard not to look at it. Our attention spans are becoming shorter and shorter. We want what we want now. We’ve become impatient instant-gratification junkies. I read the other day that in 2008, people would wait around 8 seconds for a web page to display before abandoning it. Now it’s just 2 seconds.

Over the past year, several people have told me that have adult ADD. None of them has been diagnosed by a doctor–they’ve just labeled themselves. Our attention is being pulled in multiple directions at once. In most cases it’s our own fault, because we choose what to focus on. Yes, many of us do suffer from ADD–Acquired Distraction Disorder.

In our personal lives and in business, human beings thrive on connection–genuine connection–the kind that comes from uninterrupted, attentive conversation. I’m writing a new book about the power and art of listening, connecting, and being present with people. Stay tuned…

Meanwhile, do yourself and someone else a favor: put down your smart phone and make time to connect with the person in front of you. Be present!

I’d love to hear your comments or experiences about presence, or lack of it. Please enter comments below.


Business runs on relationships and thrives on relationships. I frequently coach my clients on creating greater rapport and connection in business and sales. To find out about my coaching programs, contact me.