Have you ever been to a meeting and it was obvious that people were not present?
Have you ever sat down face-to-face with somebody for dinner or a business meeting and the person you were meeting with was clearly distracted by other things?
Have you ever run a meeting or conducting a training and people in the audience were not present?
We are in the age of distraction! The proliferation of smartphones, tablet computers, and other devices has made us all accessible to anybody, anywhere, all the time.
For many years I promised my son that we would go on a trip between his senior year in high school and his freshman year in college. We decided to go to Ireland, The United Kingdom, and France. It was an amazing trip and we had an amazing time, however, one of the things that really shocked me was the fact that no matter where we were he was desperate to find wifi so he could interact and follow people back home. He was on his phone for hours in some of the most amazing places in the world. I know some of you are cringing and thinking why not take his phone. At least that is what my wife thought. I really wanted to let it play out and see what would happen. I wanted to see if he could be present!
So how do you think this made me feel? I’ve spent all this money, time, and planning on a trip of a lifetime yet my son was barely present due to his desire to be connected to other people elsewhere. I felt sad, angry, let down, upset, I felt unimportant. What it is about these other people that make it so much more important than spending time with dear old Dad.
Now for the reality check. Guess what, this is really not my son’s problem or my problem. It is everyone’s problem. Have we dismissed the ability to be present and focused on another human being? After having this happen and being pretty upset, I looked in the mirror. I started thinking about how many times I have picked up my phone to check a text when I’m in a meeting or how many times I’ve checked email when I’m sitting in a training program. Now the biggie. How many times have I looked up something totally irrelevant, like checking Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or whatever. The mirror is a powerful tool. So here is my public apology to my wife, kids, family, staff, friends for all the times I have not been present when we are together.
The risk of being distracted is great! You risk hurting a relationship, not learning, not having the desired experience, not having the desired outcome, you have the risk of truly wasting your time. BE PRESENT!
Do you want to deepen relationships with people? If so then be right here right now.
So what have I decided? I will be present when I’m with another human being. I’m doing the following:
- I will truly focus on the conversation at hand.
- I will focus on what the other person is saying.
- Shock, horror, gasp! I have cut off my Facebook notifications, actually, I have cut off most of the notifications on my phone.
- I’m retraining my network to be a little more patient. I will get back in touch, just not be in three seconds. Be patient grasshopper!
P.S. I want to thank my son for being OK that I use these pictures to demonstrate my point. Son, you are amazing! I love you and it was an amazing trip!