The Importance of Presence
The duration of life is always an uncertainty; make every interaction count
We live in a distracted culture. How many times have you found yourself in a situation where your body was present but your mind was elsewhere while you were engaging with someone else? It used to be considered unspeakably rude to not give others your full attention during a conversation, but now it is commonplace. Most of us lead incredibly busy lives, trying to cram an impossible amount of activity into our days, and in the process of trying to take care of everything we’ve deemed important, we might be losing out on the most important things of all; each other.
It is all too easy to find our minds wandering to whatever we need to get done next when we’re in a conversation, or to multitask when we take a phone call, half-listening as we do the dishes or battle rush hour traffic. Even worse, with the ever-present smartphone in our hand, we might be ignoring the person we’re standing face to face with as we check Facebook, Instagram, texts, or email. Would we do this if we knew that we were seeing or speaking with someone for the last time?
The thing is, we can never know. Heart attacks strike out of the blue, car accidents happen without warning, and dozens of other scenarios we never could have anticipated can leave us mulling over past conversations, picking them apart with a fine-toothed comb. In hindsight, when we review these final conversations and remember the ways in which we weren’t fully engaged, most of us would give anything for a re-do.
Six Ways to Be Fully Present with Another Person
Put down the phone. Better yet, silence the phone. Check it later.
- Don’t multitask. Sit or stand near the person and face them rather than continuing with whatever else you were doing.
- Make eye contact.
- Make physical contact. If it’s appropriate for the relationship, give a hug, reach over and squeeze their hand, or simply touch their shoulder.
- Listen with the intent to hear, not the intent to respond. This allows you to fully take in what the other person is saying.
- Only speak in ways that improve on silence. Use empathetic and reflective listening to show the other person that you’re hearing them and that what they are saying matters to you. Express your feelings, especially love or gratitude.
We’re human. It is inevitable that at times we won’t give someone our full attention or handle a conversation perfectly, but the more we practice presence during conversation, the easier it becomes. Just like most of the behaviors we engage in, our degree of presence is habitual. By cultivating presence, we offer each other the gift of being seen and heard, which is what most people desire above all else. By treating every conversation as though it could be your last, you minimize regrets and maximize happy memories, regardless of whether or not it is.
Devon is a Licensed Mental Health/Substance Abuse Counselor, Personal Life Coach, Certified Personal Trainer, and a nationally certified teacher. She is committed to helping young people be their highest selves in all areas: body, mind, and spirit. Her expertise, enthusiasm, energy and educational background serve to create a unique blend of services and techniques employed to help you reach your goals. For counseling sessions, coaching, or training, please contact her at 505.469.0779 or firstname.lastname@example.org.