Waking up to Wisdom
In Stillness and Community

Attunement: an Agendaless Presence

--by Daniel Goleman (Apr 20, 2009)

Attunement is attention that goes beyond momentary empathy to a full sustained presence that facilitates rapport. We offer a person our total attention and listen fully. We seek to understand the other person rather than just making our own point. 

Such deep listening seems to be a natural aptitude. Still, as with all social intelligence dimensions, people can improve their attunement skills. And we can all facilitate attunement simply by intentionally paying more attention.

A person's style of speaking offers clues to their underlying ability to listen deeply. During moments of genuine connection, what we say will be responsive to what the other feels, says, and does. When we are poorly connected, however, our communications become verbal bullets: our message does not change to fit the other person's state but simply reflects our own. Listening makes the difference. Talking at a person rather than listening to him reduces a conversation to a monologue.

When I hijack a conversation by talking at you, I'm fulfilling my needs without considering yours. Real listening, in contrast, requires me to attune to your feelings, let you have your say, and allows the conversation to follow a course we mutually determine. Two-way listening makes a dialogue reciprocal, with each person adjusting what they say in keeping with how the other responds and feels. 

This agendaless presence can be seen, surprisingly, in many top-performing sales people and client managers. Stars in these fields do not approach a customer or client with the determination to make a sale; rather they see themselves as consultants of sorts, whose task is first to listen and understand the client's needs -- and only then match what they have to those needs. Should they not have what's best, they'll say so [...].

Full attention, so endangered in this age of multitasking, is blunted whenever we split our focus. Self-absorption and preoccupations shrink our focus, so that we are less able to notice other people's feelings and needs, let alone respond with empathy. Our capacity for attunement suffers, snuffing out rapport.

But full presence does not demand that much from us. "A five-minute conversation can be a perfectly meaningful human moment,” an article in the Harvard Business Review notes. "To make it work, you have to set aside what you are doing, put down the memo you were reading, disengage from your laptop, abandon your daydream, and focus on the person you're with." [...]

Intentionally paying more attention to someone may be the best way to encourage emergence of rapport. Listening carefully, with undivided attention, orients our neural circuits for connectivity, putting us on the same wavelength. That maximizes the likelihood that the other essential ingredients for rapport -- synchrony and positive feelings -- might bloom.

- Daniel Goleman, from "Social Intelligence"

Add Your Reflection:

Send me an email when another comment is posted on this passage.
Name: Email:

Previous Reflections:

On Apr 20, 2009 Ganoba Date wrote:

social interaction is not just between two people. In its wholeness it is what happens in a crowd, in a bazar, in a group. To be present in such a setting the ego has to be completely sunmerged in the totality of the group. then there is no you and I; only a we that cannot be understood or described by standing apart from it.

Without being part of the "madness or wildness" true attunement  is not possible.

Goldman is describing a different process and to a different audience. his purpose also seems to be maximum commercial gain.


On Apr 21, 2009 Rod Templin wrote:

Ganoba has hit the key element here.  In my opinion, in order to be fully present, the ego must be "submerged".  Another useful perspective on this, is to think of just leaving your ego "on the shelf" unless you need it.  If active listening is going to happen, there is no need for my ego.

The practice of "active listening" also requires that one attempt to paraphrase what the "other" is saying. For example,  .   .   ."it sounds to me like you are saying (put it in your own words), is that right?"

Also, once you sense that you have "attuned" yourself to the other's head/heart space, remain in that space yourself. Do not attempt to convince another of your own perspective unless that is specifically requested by the other. You cannot force another to take your viewpoint by beating them over the head with it. As someone wisely advised, "Quiet your mind, open your heart, and exercise your spirit!"

On Apr 22, 2009 Rose-Sakwerah wrote:

do not interfer when fellow colleage is talking. listen to the end, pls.

On Apr 24, 2009 james wrote:



good work


On Apr 24, 2009 Estelle wrote:

I have that area within me, my position in life for the most has been a problem solver and risk taker.The ones I love are not in need of that part of me, they never actually did.  This process of re-educating myself needs many reminders and extra energy to keep on task.

Thank you

Today I will turn my attention outwards, so I can take in the wonders of being present in the listening of my loved ones.

Estelle Sanchez

On Apr 27, 2009 sijad v azad wrote:

Enjoy each and every moment of your life......


On May 17, 2009 Kanchan wrote:

I love this ijourney posting. Definitely my favorite. So important in todays age of mobile devices and multitasking. I realise that it is very easy to be present without an agenda and give my full attention when I am meeting someone for the first time. However, once I think I "know" :) someone, I tend to assume more and react more. Attunement becomes a little difficult :)

On Apr 2, 2011 arnold wrote:

being present, and paying attention (in this case to what another person is saying/trying to say/ to you) is more difficult than it first appears.


FWIW I am currently theorizing that those brought up in an urban/sub-urban environment where human contact is a default circumstance rather than an intentional experience, might be somewhat hampered in the "active listening" skillset. In an environment/culture where there is less rush to be always doing something or GOING to do something, it is difficult to be fully present.  I had that direct experience with an exercise adapted from Tich Nat Hanh, about "being present" as a principle of the Buddhist practice.  I am convinced that

a) there is wisdom in that teaching

b) mastering the skill of "being present" requires practice itself, and commitment

c) there is benefit to be had from accumulating and applying the skill of Being Present.



On Feb 28, 2012 Barbara Stanfield wrote:
 This is the way I was raised. I am curious to how young people of today would take this article. Most everyone I know puts you on hold or continues with a task. Even my friend of 74 years does her dishes or dusts while she is talking to me.

On Mar 22, 2016 B. Hayes wrote:

 Why is it that most of us were not taught, at home in our family, how to active listen ,or in our school system.I think you could say- active listening is an act of love.

On Mar 18, 2018 Cletus wrote:

Being Attuned to another person is being Present totally; body, mind and heart. How true we just can't multi task if we have to listen to another person. Connection takes place only when both ends have been able to give and receive. I am reminded to come to terms to this reality each time I listen to my wife, she can sense the disconnect if I am not wholly participating in the conversation. 

On Jul 31, 2018 Damilola Fasoranti wrote:

 I  guess this happens to a lot of us, we give attention when we meet people for the first time, then later that we have assumed we know them, we don't give 100% attention when they speak. That means we may need to be intentional in still listening attentively to people that we have known for ages.

On Sep 30, 2018 Anna Sally wrote:

This is such a great resource that you are providing and you give it away for free. paper writing service

On Oct 1, 2018 Anna Sally wrote:

Wow, What a Excellent post. I really found this to much informatics. It is what i was searching for.I would like to suggest you that please keep sharing such type of info.Thanks best foods for weight loss

On Oct 8, 2018 Anna Sally wrote:

Thank you so much for sharing this great blog.Very inspiring and helpful too.Hope you continue to share more of your ideas.I will definitely love to read. Read Here More

On Oct 11, 2018 febf wrote:

This is a amazing post, the information is very useful. Thank you for sharing this amazing post, I really appreciate your work. free gift code generator and free gift codes generator and free gift code generator

On Oct 11, 2018 Anna Sally wrote:

I really appreciate the kind of topics you post here. Thanks for sharing us a great information that is actually helpful. Good day! pH Meter

On Oct 18, 2018 Anna Sally wrote:

I am happy to find your distinguished way of writing the post. Now you make it easy for me to understand and implement the concept. Thank you for the post. More info

On Oct 22, 2018 sohail khatri wrote:

 Thanks so much for sharing this awesome info! I am looking forward to see more postsby you! Website

On Nov 3, 2018 Anna Sally wrote:

ทริคหรือเทคนิคต่างๆมาให้กับคุณ โดยเฉพาะอย่างยิ่ง วิเคราะห์ ทีเด็ดต่างๆ พนันบอล

On Nov 10, 2018 ralphgray gray wrote:

Thanks for taking the time to discuss that, I feel strongly about this and so really like getting to know more on this kind of field. Do you mind updating your blog post with additional insight? It should be really useful for all of us. Poker Online indonesia