4 Steps to Being Completely Present

The quickest way to upset a prospect, client, or colleague is to make them feel like you don’t care. Why? Because it is a rejection of them as a person or their ideas or needs. While most of us aren’t intentionally making others feel awful, we’re doing it every day and with increasing frequency. How? We aren’t totally in the moment—and others can sense it a mile away.

We’ve all been there, when you feel like the other person you are interacting with is a million miles away. It’s the worst. You want to call them out for having their mind elsewhere, but you know that won’t go well, so you don’t say anything. All too often, it’s your boss or your colleague.

While you can’t do much about their behavior, you can do something about your own. Try these four ways to be fully present so your direct reports and colleagues don’t feel uncomfortable or under-appreciated.

No. 1 - Put the Phone Down

From now on and until all the days of your life are over, pretend your phone is a desktop computer when you pull it out in front of others. Would you work on your desktop while someone was talking to you in your office? We sure hope not. Would you put a desktop computer on the table while sitting at a meeting with your work team? Nope. Should you play solitaire while talking to a client on the phone? Not if you want to keep them engaged.

Putting your phone away accomplishes two important things: 1) It allows you to be fully present for the conversation and all the things that are a part of it, and 2) It shows others you are paying attention. The latter makes others feel accepted, which is one of the most primal needs we humans have. Congratulations to you if you can make others feel like part of the family.

No. 2 - Clear (Extra) Time in Your Schedule

We know, you’re busy. We all are. So what? It doesn’t give you license to disrespect your colleagues’ time just because you suck at managing your own. Try making more room in your work day including scheduling 30 minutes after each meeting to debrief and follow up with action items. Or block out only 75% of your day for appointments and meetings, so if you have urgent issues arise you can handle them with ease. If you aren’t rushed, you can focus more on the person in front of you.

No. 3 - Go in with a Beginner’s Mind

You weren’t born knowing everything. Life is much richer when we’re available to learn what we can from those around us. When you’re with others, remember that you don’t know it all and that you can learn a lot from what they are saying. Putting yourself in the mindset to learn from what they have to share will boost your engagement and produce even better outcomes for everyone.

No. 4 - Listen Completely

If you take away distractions, make time for the interaction, and go in with an open mind, then you’re ready to listen completely. Start off by asking if you can take notes—a demonstrable behavior that says, “I’m listening.” Use reflective listening techniques like paraphrasing back to the speaker, asking questions, requesting clarification, making eye contact, and summarizing before moving on. Show you’re 100% present for the conversation and watch the discussion reach new heights.

Julian Leaver