I’ve been feeling more and more that in a world that seems to be speeding up and in a time when gadgets and technology are available (and oftentimes in our hands) at any moment, that presence has become the best present we can offer to ourselves and also to others.
Years ago, when cell phones were just becoming popular and mainstream, I was having lunch with a friend. In the middle of our conversation, her phone rang. She went to grab it, and I thought that she was going to turn the ringer off and apologize. Instead, she answered it and began having a conversation. I sat there not entirely sure what to do. Should I busy myself with something else? Should I pretend that I can’t hear the conversation? Should I get up and leave? While the phone conversation only lasted a minute or two, in those moments I felt like I wasn’t important to her, like I didn’t matter. And that definitely didn’t feel good.
This experience was actually such a blessing for me. Because I will always remember how I felt in that moment, and I vowed to do everything in my power to be fully present for those I interacted with from then on. I wanted them to know that when I was with them, I was there 100%.
Like I said, this was years ago. And so much has changed since then. We now have even more gadgets to distract ourselves from those who are right in front of us. We have a constant stream of Facebook updates and Tweets and Instagram pictures and texts and calls and videos and the list truly goes on and on. And I will admit that I’m not immune to these distractions. I feel the pull to check Facebook when I’m on a call with someone. I feel the desire to just look and see if any new emails have come in. And while I’m definitely not perfect, I can say that I do my best to stay present and give my full attention to whomever I am talking to. I know that they deserve this attention. I know that if the tables were turned, I would want that from them. I feel that the best gift I can give to them is this complete presence – letting them feel on a deep level that they matter to me. Letting them feel that they are more important to me than anything else that is happening in the world. All of that stuff will still be there when our conversation ends. But in this moment, I want them to feel that they have my full attention.
I was on a group Skype call the other day with five other people. Two of the five were watching TV in the background and one was constantly checking her smart phone. And while they were (for the most part) keeping up with the conversation, it still reminded me of how I felt all of those years ago with my friend answering her phone. I felt that they didn’t really want to be there.
And while I know that it’s nothing personal and that everyone seems to do this and it has nothing to do with me, I can’t help but take it a bit personally, to be honest. I feel like if we’re going to be together (virtually or in person), we can give each other the gift of presence. We can put our phones down and our gadgets down and (as best we can) turn our full attention to whomever we are with for the entire time we are with them.
You can feel the difference when someone is present, and it feels amazing, right? You can tell when someone is physically with you but their thoughts are clearly somewhere else. And you probably don’t think that it feels that great when someone is listening to you and also checking their email at the same time or watching the game or texting their friend.
And while I definitely don’t think that anyone means any harm by any of this, I do believe that it is doing harm. It’s perpetuating the feeling that we aren’t enough – that we don’t matter – that we aren’t seen. And all of this can be remedied with presence. It’s really that simple.
This non-presence is simply a habit that many of us have gotten into that we can change (if we want to). We can choose to be present. We can choose to give our full and complete attention to each person that we interact with. We can choose to show them how much they matter to us. We can help them feel that they are enough.
So with that in mind, I would love for all of us to try an experiment:
Let’s all commit to being fully present with everyone we interact with for the rest of the day.
When you eat dinner with your family, put your phones away. Turn the TV off. And if you notice that your thoughts start to drift away from the conversation, lovingly bring them back.
When you are checking out at the grocery store, look up and smile at the cashier. Ask them about their day. Listen to their response. Really engage with them.
When your kids ask you to help them with their homework, again put away all distractions that may take you away from being fully present with them. Let them feel how important they are to you. Let them see that this is where you want to be. Give them your undivided attention.
When your spouse asks to spend time with you, be there for them. Ask them how they are feeling. Listen. Look into their eyes. See them. Really see them.
I guarantee that doing this will help each person that you interact with to feel seen and heard and loved. They will love this gift of presence that you have given them, and they will be more likely to give this gift to someone else. It has a beautiful ripple effect. And it all starts with setting the intention to be as present and as engaged as you can be with each person.
See them. Hear them. Listen to them. Be present for them.
It’s so, so worth it.
It’s a beautiful way to go through your day. Fully connected. Fully present.
Jodi Chapman is a bestselling author, an award-winning blogger, and a soulful community builder. She lives her life with love and faith in the driver’s seat, and she hopes to leave a trail of inspiration wherever she goes. She believes that we each have the ability to hear our soul’s whisper and create our best lives. She would love to connect with you!