We've All Had That One Conversation
If you've been to a conference or a networking event, you've likely been in a conversation when the person you're talking to is no longer looking at you. They're looking around the room. Is there someone more important that they should connect with? Can you remember how it felt? Horrible, right? It's probably not impossible to also remember a time when we've done something similar, even if not on purpose. We are in the middle of a conversation and we stop paying attention. Let's be honest, it's hard to be fully present.
You'll Differentiate Yourself Quickly
If you struggle with being fully present, here's the good news – everyone does. We've gotten more and more distracted with alerts, red circles with numbers in it, Slack, Twitter and other social platforms.
But if you learn to be fully present, you'll differentiate yourself quickly.
Imagine being in phone calls, zoom calls, in person conversations with someone who was completely focused on you. Without distraction.
You would love it. And that's how others would feel if you mastered the skill. You'd stand apart from every one of your competitors.
But to do that, you'll have have to do some work.
To Be Fully Present Requires Some Discipline
I already told you that the work to be fully present is hard work. But it's also something that requires discipline. Today what I want to do is give you three disciplines to pursue to become the kind of person who can be fully present in every conversation you're in.
I call them tips, but let's be honest. These are disciplines. You have to do these over and over again (not just once or twice).
Tip One: Put Your Phone in Your Pocket (or Another Room)
The best device ever created for communication is the mobile phone. The worst device ever created for communication is the mobile phone. Know what I mean? Our phones betray us all the time. They distract us even when we're in very important conversations.
Most of us keep our phones in our hands. Or on our desk next to us. Available all the time. As a result, when you're on a zoom call, and your phone dings or blinks, you get distracted.
Here's the tip to becoming fully present in every conversation you're in – put your phone away. In a spot where you can't see it (or even feel it). Maybe it's your pocket. Or your backpack.
When I go out to dinner with my wife, there are multiple times where I leave the phone in the car. I'll be an even better husband when I do it every single time.
The point is to protect yourself from your own devices that will distract you if you let them.
Tip Two: Schedule Your Distractions
I love twitter. I also like email and slack. And sometimes I even like silly websites with posts like, “Actors and the movies that changed them forever.”
To be fully present though, you can't let all this stuff get in your way. You can't let them distract you. But you can schedule time so you are free to enjoy those things without impacting the conversations you're in.
I recommend carving out time daily for when you:
- Process emails (two or three times a day)
- Process Slack messages (two or three times a day)
- Watch YouTube (once s day)
- Read silly articles (once a day)
The benefit of this approach is that you'll get your “fix” and can be focused when you aren't doing this stuff.
Here's what I don't recommend.
You don't have to tell people that you only check email three times a day. Just reply in the moments when you schedule time for that. I think people who write, “I only check emails two times a day” are really writing, “Since I can't manage my life, I've created a scenario to manage my focus. But trust me with your work….” I think it's a mistake.
Tip Three: Embrace Active Listening
The last discipline is the hardest, in my opinion. Of course, I'm someone who is prone to interrupting people a lot. Over the years I've gotten better, but only as I've practiced active listening. Here's how the verywellmind site describes it:
It is the process of listening attentively while someone else speaks, paraphrasing and reflecting back what is said, and withholding judgment and adviceVery Well Mind Website
When you read their description of active listening, you see these things listed as unhelpful activities while someone else is speaking:
- Interrupting people
- Not making eye contact
- “Topping” the story
- Asking about unimportant details
Learning to stop each of these (and the other items they list) is the key not only to active listening but also to being fully present in any conversation.
I See You. I Hear You.
In the end, the point of all of this, is to stay focused so that the person you're speaking with (and listening to) feels both seen and heard. That's the gift you bring to each conversation. And when you're able to be fully present, you're giving them that gift.
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