Creative Genius Podcast

Season 5 Episode 5

Do I Have Your Attention? (Paul Hellman)

Do I Have Your Attention? (Paul Hellman)

Do you ever get the feeling that you’re talking but nobody’s listening? You’re not alone. It happens all the time to all of us. It takes two to communicate. With some effort and finesse, we can improve the odds that others will pay attention to what we’re saying.

In this podcast Gail talks with communications expert Paul Hellman, consultant, columnist and author of several books, including You’ve Got 8 Seconds: Communications Secrets for a Distracted World. Through his firm, Express Potential, Paul also offers his services as a keynote speaker and facilitator of workshops on various communications topics.

Paul explained that the title of his book derives from some research conducted by Microsoft that found humans today on average have an attention span of about 8 seconds. One reason is that we have so many distractions from all the devices we use and all the information we’re constantly bombarded with. Another reason is that we’re continuously engaged with our own internal thoughts—by one estimate, as many as 60,000 a day—even when listening to others.

Think of it, said Paul, “when you talk to somebody, you are speaking into a listener cluttered with 60,000 thoughts.”

So how does one break through the clutter? asked Gail. Paul said there are three main strategies: focus, variety and presence. Each is a way to get the listener’s attention and hold it.

Paul went on to say that every audience, no matter who or how many they are, when listening to someone always is looking for the answer to three main questions:

  • Why am I listening to you?
  • What are you saying (i.e., what’s your point)?
  • What am I supposed to do with this information, or how am I supposed to feel about what you’re saying, or how should I think about what you’re saying?

Most people, Paul added, contribute to the clutter by providing too much detail or by taking too long to get to the point. To be effective in communicating, say less. Be concise. Design a message that will stick. Answer the three questions as efficiently, directly and clearly as you can.

Paul went on to give some advice on how to create effective emails that others will open and read, how to give negative feedback in a way that the listener will hear and accept it, and how to ask smart questions that engage the listener and invite dialogue. For those and other insights into how to become a more effective communicator, listen to the entire podcast.

If you’re listening on your favorite podcast platform, view the full show notes on our website:

Mentioned in This Podcast

For more information about Paul, his books, his workshops and other services, visit the website for his firm, Express Potential.

To date, Paul has published three books:

  • You’ve Got 8 Seconds: Communications Secrets for a Distracted World
  • Naked at Work (and Other Fears): How to Stay Sane When Your Job Drives You Crazy
  • Ready, Aim, You’re Hired: How to Job-Interview Successfully Anytime, Anywhere With Anyone

You can get more information about them on the Books page of the Express Potential website at

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