“Presence cannot be seen, touched or heard but allows authentic connection with clients, colleagues and others that is transformative”
Have you ever been with an individual whom you knew was totally present to your conversation or need? A connection occurs that is powerful! Unfortunately, it is also rare. That is because when we show up for meetings, training events, or even coffees, – we simply aren’t always present. Often, we have multiple “conversations” taking place in our heads at the same time. We may only partially be listening to the other person, while at the same time forming rebuttals in our minds, wondering what else we have to get done today, while periodically glancing at our phone messages.
Why is it so difficult to be present to others?
For many of us we have created a ‘Me Mindset’, even in some of our more altruistic moments. We will consider, “How might this conversation benefit or advance me and my interests? What can I get from this meeting? What’s in it for me or what can I gain from this relationship?” In the world of pastoral psychology (yes, the one involving those folk we call pastors, chaplains, ministers, priests, counselors etc), we find professionals who have honed this ability to simply ‘be present’ with ‘the other.’ On the surface, one might think it a simple undertaking. But in actual fact, it requires effort, skill and a mindset focussed on the other. It requires an active interest and engagement with the ‘other’ and requires suspending the ‘Me Mindset’ and instead developing an attitude of true care and interest. It entails being curious about the other person’s ideas and perspective on life. It requires a willingness to truly listen, to ask questions, to ponder the implications. And finally, being present requires a willingness to confront issues or dynamics that might emerge in the conversation with which we are uncomfortable. For example, if the conversation constitutes a difficult one regarding work performance, we might worry that the employee will begin to cry, or become upset. We might wonder “What if they become angry and no longer like me?” Sometimes, our inability to really focus on the ‘other’ may stem from our own lack of comfort with ourselves. Learning to be present to ourselves, our own feelings, thoughts and reactions, can enable us to be more present to others as well.
The rewards of learning to be fully present to ourselves and to others are substantial. When we do shift our ‘mindset’, to truly focus on the other, it creates an almost immediate trust, connection and space wherein conversation moves deeper and more quickly to issues of substance. The empty and half-heard sentences and words lobbed back and forth across a board room table, or over coffee with a friend, disappear and what is left is conversation that has impact and meaning.
How are you showing up to meetings and conversations? What ‘mindset’ do you bring?
Jeff is the founder of Magnanimous People Strategies, a firm dedicated to bridging Purpose and People with Productivity and Profit to create competent and caring driven organizations in both the for profit and not for profit sectors.