Being present with people. In the personal growth world this is talked about all the time. “Be more present. Stop texting or checking your email during a conversation. Put your phone down. Really listen when people are talking to you.” If you’ve been paying attention recently, these thoughts are being shared almost every day by people who truly believe in them. However, a majority of the time the ‘how to’ part of being present is always tied to stepping away from technology. And there is truth in that advice. I just don’t find it very helpful. You see, I already know that if I look at my phone less I am more available for connecting with another human being. But that doesn’t necessarily guarantee that I will actually connect with someone on a visceral level. The benefits of being present are obviously numerous. Studies have shown that people who regularly share deep connections with others have lower stress levels, a greater sense of belonging, and lower blood pressure. And don’t we all want to be present in every moment of our lives? Of course we do. How often have you played the game… ‘if you only had one more day to live’? But it isn’t as easy as ‘just do it.’
Here is a simple and easy way to go through your day being entirely present with those you come in contact with. Choose to look directly into the eyes of the people you are speaking with for a solid 10 seconds. That’s it. At the drive through, make direct eye contact with the person in the window. At work, make direct eye contact with the people you are collaborating with. On the train, if someone asks you the time, make the effort to look them directly in the eye when you respond.
Even brief but intentional eye contact acknowledges to another human being that they are valued and are worthy of your presence. This is such a powerful tool. Not only to affect the recipient of your gesture but to remind you that you are in the presence of another human being and they deserve your attention. If you begin your exchange by intentionally making eye contact for a few moments with someone and then later in the exchange return to their eyes, both you and they will have a heightened sense of awareness that you are connecting beyond the surface level interaction. This is true even if you are talking about the weather.
Now, before you begin practicing this today, there are a few things to be noted. First, this can be scary and isn’t as easy as it sounds. Second, prolonged eye contact can become so intense that often times people don’t even hear what is being said. Also, it’s just plain creepy. Don’t be afraid to make the eye contact, but once you’re completely aware that you’ve made an unforced connection, go ahead and move your gaze naturally throughout the rest of the conversation. And then return to the person’s eyes from time to time throughout the exchange.
This will be a trigger for you in your mind that your first and foremost purpose is to connect with this person. This will begin to kick you brain into a purposeful conversation in which you will be aware that connecting is your intention. More than getting your point across or communicating verbal information, you will be expressing that you are fully present with the people around you. And what a gift that is to give.
"You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment." - Henry David Thoreau
"I do not want to foresee the future. I am concerned with taking care of the present. God has given me no control over the moment following." - Mahatma Gandhi
"To me the goal of comedy is to just laugh, which is a really high hearted thing, visceral connection and reaction." - Louis C.K.