Let’s get honest.
Do you ever make plans with a friend days or weeks in advance and then when that day comes you’re secretly hoping they’ll cancel because you have *so* much to get done? (Please tell me I’m not the only one here.)
This is where I’m supposed to say adulating is hard.
And it is.
But the number of times I’ve felt this way makes me wonder if I’m really present and committed when I’m face-to-face or if I’m only half there because I think what I need to get done (aka me, myself and my priorities) is soooo much more important than whoever is sitting across from me.
Can you relate?
And it’s no secret we all have our heads bowed looking down at a screen. A billion and one words have been written about this phenomenon. I’ve even written about winning the battle with social media.
So how do we fight it?
How do we get intentional with our interactions with others?
How do we stop our eyes from flickering to a notification in the middle of a sentence or resist the urge to check a text during an awkward silence?
How do we start truly listening instead of just waiting for our turn to speak?
I think it starts with a decision to being present and committed and I have five ways we can start doing it today. Not tomorrow, today.
Dress like it
This will undoubtedly shift situationally. Showing your friend you’re present and committed over coffee isn’t the same as showing your boss during a one-on-one. What’s important here is the intention.
I will say that if someone is your real friend, she’ll forgive you for rolling up to brunch in your pajamas. But are you sending her a message that your mind is with her and not the giant load of laundry you apparently have waiting or the nap you wish you were taking? Show her you’re excited to be there.
As for the boss, we all know how I feel about dressing professionally (especially when it comes to how to dress for work in your 20s). Dressing like you want to be at work or, better yet, like you want that promotion, speaks volumes to those around you.
Don’t check your phone
You better believe I’m talking to myself with this one. Lots of studies show that smartphones are killing our conversation quality (yeah, it’s science, people) and it’s no surprise. How can someone believe you’re present and committed to a conversation if you spend half of it texting?
Leave your phone in your purse, on your desk or just turn it off (GASP) if you have to. Jon and I have started unplugging the first half of Saturday so we can use that time intentionally together. It’s embarrassing how hard it’s been to stick with it, but I highly recommend this. We’ve also committed to not checking our phones during dates.
Ask good questions
Listen, listen and listen more. Don’t just wait for your turn to speak. Truly showing that you’re listening is to ask good questions.
How did that make you feel? What is God teaching you through this? What can you learn?
And if they are in need, specifically say how you will help. For example, if they’re going through a really challenging season, don’t say, “Let me know if I can help!” Have you ever taken someone up on that vague of an offer? Probably not. Instead, try something like, “I will be at your house this Friday at 2 p.m. to kidnap your children and I’ll bring them back at 6 p.m.” (Listen to this episode of Awesome with Alison for more on this.)
What do you do if they share something so tough you truly just don’t have the words? Please, don’t say nothing. Try this, “I’m sorry. I don’t know what to say but I’m so sorry.” (Read Shauna Neiquist’s Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way for more on this.)
The best way to prove you were listening is to specifically follow up after the fact. At my office, we call this heartwork (how amazing is that?). Pay close attention during conversations and train your ear to listen for special ways you can make others feel heard and loved. Here are a few specific ways:
- a hand-written note
- an article the related to your conversation
- book or podcast recommendations
- something way above and so beyond (example: Jon once bought us tickets to see Seth Avett and Jessica Lea Mayfield for Valentine’s Day. I told him, one time, in November, that I wanted to go. THAT is listening, folks.)
So my challenge to you is this: How can you love people bigger in 2018? I’d love to hear your thoughts in a comment.
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