As I stood in line waiting to place my order, I heard a voice behind me, "Hi, Mike."
I greeted the man who I hadn't seen in quite a while. After asking him how life had been lately the man replied while reaching into his pocket to get his cell phone. As I asked another question to make friendly conversation, the man answered while scrolling through his emails.
It was clear to me that the conversation was now over.
The greatest gift you can give another person is your full, undivided attention...your presence.
This man would have zero positive impact from that point forward the moment he pulled his attention away from our conversation and into his own world.
Unfortunately, such interactions are becoming more common place in our world. There are a myriad of distractions in our world today, many at our fingertips. And as busy leaders, there are many things on our minds, places we need to be, and people with whom we need to talk. But we cannot let distractions pull our attention away from the people right in front of us. You are a leader because you want to make a positive difference in people's lives. The best way to do so is to give your undivided attention to people right in front of you.
Here are three things you can do to increase your ability to be fully present with someone.
Press the pause button - Imagine pressing the pause button on your mind, your body, and your mouth. It's not that you are frozen. It's as if you've moved from motion to no motion. No motion is, as Viola Spolin says, "action at a sizzle." It is action waiting to be continued. As the person you are speaking to is talking, press the pause button and wait with awareness and attentiveness when it is your turn to engage.
Refuse to interrupt - Let the person talk. Give them space. As the proverbial saying goes, "God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason. Use them accordingly." Resolve to listen twice as long as you speak.
Wiggle your toes, tap your feet - If you have a difficult time keeping your mind in the present moment when you're listening to someone talk, gently tap your feet on the ground. The movement will bring your mind right back to the present moment. It's easy to fake our presence with someone, but believe me, people know when we're physically present but our minds are thinking about something else. Even being 80% present with someone affects the conversation. Strive to be fully, 100% present with people. Physically move feet and toes to bring your mind back to the moment.
Each person with whom we speak is a gift. Treat them as such and watch your impact grow.