It’s true that the greatest gift we can give anyone is to be fully present, but how often is it that we manage this, even, or especially, with our nearest and dearest?
Being present is definitely an art more than a science, in my experience. Yes, there are things we can do to point us in the right direction of presence, but I have found that it is a habit that takes practice. With practice comes improvement, but I’m certainly nowhere near ‘mastery’ as yet!
What does ‘to be fully present’ look like?
There is probably, somewhere, an official list with a scientifically proven definition to answer this question, but these are my top tips from my own experience:
Mind – we can only be fully present when we have a quiet mind. This is because thinking and listening are mutually exclusive; we simply cannot think and listen at the same time! So ensure your mind is quiet and your thinking is still and allow yourself to hear what the other person is saying
Ears – they say we have two ears and only one mouth and we should use them in that proportion! I think to be a good listener we probably need more of a 7:3 ration than 2:1, and certainly, to be fully present, we need to listen with no opinion nor judgement: simply, and only, to listen to understand
Eyes – if you wish to be fully present then look at the other person’s eyes when they are speaking. Eyes are ‘the gateway to the soul’ and, even if you don’t hear every single word, you will understand what is being said
Mouth – be mindful of your breathing and keep it slow and peaceful. A great thing to do is to match their breathing when you first sit down, gradually slowing yours down, and then watch them come into sync with you. As you slow your and their breathing, the thinking will slow down and you can connect more deeply
Heart – appreciate them! I attended a conference a few years back when we had to sit knee-to-knee with a stranger in the audience. While that person shared “what holds me back in business” we had to be silent, look at them, not think about what they were saying, but just think and feel about all the things we admired and appreciated about them whilst they spoke. Following this, we then had to summarise, very briefly, what we had heard…not the detail, but the over-riding message. The results were fascinating: tears from the respondents and such insightful shares from those ‘not listening’
Hands – to be fully present it is best to be open to listen and hear from the other person.The more the rest of our body physically reflects this, the better. As such, good posture is to sit upright, with arms not folded but either resting in your lap or turned palms up on your thighs. It is strange how this simple exercise can change our listening so much
Feet – finally, to build on the ideas above, try it with both feet on the floor. Typically, this helps us to be centred and thus promotes the calm mind and less judgement etc.
This week, why not test some of these ideas out? I’m not suggesting that you manage all seven at once, well, not on the first try! But give them a go…at home with your kids, your partner and at work with your colleagues and team members.
To be fully present really is the greatest gift we can give anyone. Who do you wish to give a present to this week?
After all, iTS Leadership!