Paying "continuous partial attention" to people

Are you really paying attention to people or are you tuned in just enough not to miss anything important?

Today while reading Samuel Chand's book Cracking Your Church's Culture Code, I came across the following quote about listening. It's worth paying attention to... if you can! (You'll see what I mean by that as you read below.)

Chand quotes Linda Stone, formerly of Apple and Microsoft, who coins the term continuous partial attention:
To pay continuous partial attention is to pay partial attention - CONTINUOUSLY. It is motivated by a desire to be a LIVE node on the network. Another way of saying this is that we want to connect and be connected. We want to effectively scan for opportunity and optimize for the best opportunities, activities, and contacts, in any given moment. To be busy, to be connected, is to be alive, to be recognized, and to matter. We pay continuous partial attention in an effort NOT TO MISS ANYTHING. It is an always-on, anywhere, anytime, any place behavior that involves an artificial sense of constant crisis. We are always on high alert when we pay continuous partial attention. This artificial sense of constant crisis is more typical of continuous partial attention than it is of multi-tasking. (Chand, 76)
Stone also describes Twitter as "continuous partial mindcasting, continuous partial friendship, continuous partial connections." Word.

Recently I spent some time with a friend and his family. He was constantly referring to his smartphone, wanting to pick up emails and alerts. He was paying continuous partial attention to his family and the rest of us. His family noticed.

In a forthcoming book, I will talk about out tendency to be relational consumers and engineers. We are prone to consume people for our own ends and use them like parts to construct the social world we desire. Paying continuous partial attention is what happens when we are engaging people in that way.

Jesus showed us a better way. It's paying full attention with the purpose of genuinely caring for other people.


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