I was reminded recently of a story I heard about a guy who was going to visit his friend. He had decided to walk to his friend’s house. As he turned into the road where the house was, he could hear his friend speaking very loudly to someone. When he got to the house and went inside, he remarked “I could hear you shouting from the end of the street!” He replied, “yeah sorry about that remarkably my son was standing 6 inches from me and couldn’t hear a word I was saying!” The son was there but he wasn’t present.
“Wherever you are be all there.” Jim Elliot
Jim Elliot’s challenge is to focus on where you are and who you are with right now. In a world where new information is piling into your inbox every hour of the day it can be a challenge to remain focused on the present. These offers, promising the world, come at you from all directions but it is all noise if it doesn’t align with your goals and aspirations. These offers can also be destructive as you are continually looking for something you don’t yet have.
All these things fight for your attention and take your focus away from being present; present to enjoy the day you are in now. The truth is that you can do nothing to change yesterday and, whilst we can plan for tomorrow, it is not yet here. When your focus is not on the present, the result is anxiety about the future and fear about repeating the mistakes of the past. As a result, we end up missing out on what’s happening right now.
Being Powerfully Present by Listening Well
As leaders in the middle of the challenges of constant change, one of the keys to communicating with those that you lead is to be powerfully present. The temptation is to anticipate where the person you are listening to is going or to be thinking about the next thing you have to do. The result is the same, whoever you are listening to will know you are not present and will feel devalued. This leads to disengagement and lower productivity.
How are you at listening to others? Be honest with yourself. Are you listening to their words or are you thinking about other things?
Communication has to a greater degree moved online in recent years. Communicating well with team members virtually requires more focus not less.
What can you do to increase your effectiveness to be powerfully present when you are in the room with one of your team members, family, or friends?
- Focus on what is being said to you – practice makes perfect. If you have a tendency to be thinking ahead, then you have to be vigilant and refocus.
- You have two ears and one mouth, at least use them in that ratio.
- Communication is about understanding, it is not about getting the other person to come round to your point of view. In understanding each other we are better able to collaborate, providing the right feedback which contributes to their growth.
- Ask powerful questions which reflect the words back to the person you are speaking with. This shows them you are listening to them. Your questions are then about delving deeper for understanding so you can help meet their need.
- Upwards of 65% of communication is about body language. You can communicate you are not listening through your body language. Eye contact and nodding are important. If you have an expressive face, be careful what you display in reaction to things being said. We take our cues from the words said, the tone of voice, and most of all body language.
- Listening well builds trust. When you are listened to then you are being heard which increases your value and significance.
There is much more to be said on this subject. Give yourself a break today and enjoy being present. Make sure you are present when someone needs your time – it empowers them and heads off interpersonal challenge in the future.
“The ability to be in the present moment is a major component of mental wellness.” Abraham Maslow
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