I know, it’s a strange title for a blog. But accurate. I gave this talk about presence for a Buddhist class a few months ago and the subject of how people receive presence came up. Well, my answer is “I don’t actually know.” But I do have some observations about being present for others. So I thought I would offer some of them.
People often want to know what the benefits of being “present are.” I guess its like “Tell me why I should do this and what I’ll get out of it” type of thing. My answer is nothing, but you do get to be here for the experience of living your life. And, there is a secondary outcome to practicing awareness.
I have long believed that a lot of other people are very sensitive and pick up on all sorts of signals that they are reading from the informational subtext we are all constantly projecting. Facial cues, particularly eyes, body language, stance, and the way the head is held when listening. People read these things are are very adept to the clues that tell them you area paying attention and are present or are, what I call, drifting.
Drifting is something to which we can all relate. You probably remember those conversations you have had when all of a sudden you realize that the other person just drifted off. The shell keeps nodding and acting as though there is someone there but you know that there is no one home at the moment. The reason we recognize it is because we have done the same thing. You can remember coming back to conversation from which you have drifted. You lost focus both cognitively and physically.
My reaction to drifting is usually finishing the conversation as soon as possible. I don’t have any need or desire to converse when it’s apparent that the conversation is over. And, there are tons of reasons why I or another person may drift. We don’t know what other events are occurring in others lives. They may have to be somewhere, they are exhausted, or are worried about a specific that is eating them alive, or I may be terminally boring. There are a lot of reasons for drift.
I think when we make the commitment to stay present during our interaction that it’s a gift of ourselves, our attention, caring and honoring the other people present. Plus, when we stay present, the other person is more likely to stay engaged and stay present with us. I have been aware that the quality and intensity of my interactions have increased since I started paying attention to the exchange. I have also adopted a position of transparancy when i feel I cannot engage with full attention. I plainly tell people that I am distracted, tired, or perhaps in the wrong headspace to converse. Supprisingly people seem to understand an appreciate the clarity.
If you’re familiar with reflective listening it can be a huge help in staying focused on the conversation. It’s a practice of reflecting back what you believe you heard. It’s a practice that you can do internally. We don’t always want to be reflecting verbally to another person. Although it really does indicate that we are present and aware to the other people.
We used it a lot in counseling for substance abuse. I found it really helped let people know that I wasn’t interrogating them. I’m posting a clip that is basically counselor based information. But it gets the basic idea across. See what you think.
So be here and give the focus of your attention to others. It’s a great gift to both them and you. I love the fact that reflection is about listening in presence and not interviewing, it makes a huge difference in the quality of relationship.