One of the greatest presents we can give someone is our presence – to be fully engaged in a moment with them. In Western cultures we tend to treat time as a commodity. We talk about it like it’s something that can be spent, given, exchanged, lost and gained. Perhaps this is why we place such a high value on efficiency and the ability to multitask. Our fear that time is short has made it incredibly valuable to us. And because we consider it so valuable, there are few things we can do to make someone feel more loved than to act like we have all the time in the world to listen and engage them.
When’s the last time you were with someone who made you feel special? Chances are you felt like you had their undivided attention. They seemed genuinely glad to see you. They made eye contact and smiled warmly – especially with their eyes. They asked questions, were quick to listen and slow to speak. They weren’t easily distracted and prodded you to continue when you thought they should be looking for the exit.
As Christians we hold the convictions that God exists, is available and loves us deeply – that he’s fully present. But our convictions about God are worthless if they don’t change our behavior toward others.
This week, be fully present with the people you’re around. Really pay attention and enjoy it when someone is speaking with you:
- Look at them directly as they speak.
- Try to diminish any distracting thoughts. If you find yourself getting distracted, focus specifically on what the person is saying. Create a mental summary of everything you’re hearing them say.
- Don’t be preoccupied with what you will say in response.
- Smile with your whole face.
- Nod affirmingly.
- Check your posture and make sure it’s open and inviting.
- Encourage the speaker to continue with small verbal comments like “yes,” “uh huh,” and “right?”.
- Ask follow-up questions.
- Let them have the last word.