I remember a friend asking me this during a conversion where I'd drifted off, and they'd noticed. We both laughed as I apologised and for a few minutes at least then I was. I was present. It felt good; it always feels good to me to be present for reasons I can't really explain, it's a feeling rather than something tangible.
Reflecting on that experience now I'm wondering how often I am present when I'm with people. How often am I lost in my thoughts, my own world giving only part of my attention to them while lost or absorbed in my thinking?
Meetings, presentations, and pitches are fascinating places to notice this being or not being present in ourselves and others. It almost feels like a game of 'hide and seek,' with us each trying to find each other before disappearing again.
So what does it matter anyway? We are all busy, and there is never enough time, we are constantly juggling multiple priorities trying to get stuff done so that we can move on to other things this is just the way it is. It's normal. NOT being present but creating the perception we are present is a highly valued and sought after skill, why don't we stop trying to be present and perfect our craft at pretending we are so we can get more stuff done?
Here is why:
PEOPLE KNOW... when we are not really there, everyone knows it, even though they will rarely say it as my friend did with me in calling me out. It's so normalised it's accepted as a way of being especially at work. Our communication can easily become reduced to sound bites, clichés, jargon, justification, and platitudes and we are so busy trying to be heard we hardly ever listen, really listen to what is being said by others. We experience this in virtually all meetings, presentations, and pitches, at least partially. We all want to tell our story, and we all want to be heard, and we rarely experience either.
So what happens when we are present? When we do tell our story and listen, witness, and really receive the other stories?
In our experience, this is when the magic we are all trying to create; actually happens naturally. Problems are resolved, real relationships are created, creativity is released, commitments are made (and often stuck too) deals get done, sometimes even the hugs and handshakes are really felt.
The question to ask ourselves is not how do I become less busy to have the time to be present for my partner, children, colleagues, friends, boss, team, etc. The question is, what cost is being paid from me not being present right here, right now at this moment...?
So try it, for a minute, an hour, a day a week or a lifetime. Try being you, being here, at this moment, in this place with this person right now, hearing their story, telling yours. See what happens. It's an amazing feeling to be present and to be in the presence of someone who is.
'Hello, are you in there?'