In our busy lives, most of us aren’t even aware of how distracted we are. Such distractions interfere with our abilities to nurture relationships and create repercussions for us as leaders, parents, or colleagues. As we think about what we need to pick up on the way home, e-mails we need to answer, meetings we need to schedule, what we are going to have for dinner, or the million things we want to do and haven’t done—all while trying to have a conversation with someone—we are not present and therefore can’t fully listen.
Being present is a choice we all have every minute of every day. Some would argue that it is the most important choice we can make – to be present in the moment and aware of the here and now. When you think about it, when you aren’t present in the moment, you are never fully experiencing your external and internal worlds. If you are never truly here or there, what kind of life are you living? What kind of relationships are you building? Most importantly, what kind of understanding of self and others are your cultivating?
To be present requires that we turn off the chatter in our heads, freeing ourselves of what may have happened in the past or anticipating what will happen in the future. It requires us to be in a highly aware state. Being present helps us find a place of calm where we feel grounded, can be at peace with ourselves, and attend to what is happening in this moment. It is also the only way we can access curiosity and intentionally listen to someone who is speaking to us.
Be Present and ABSORB
In our distracted, time-constrained world, we need to bring ourselves into the moment and focus on truly listening, or ABSORBing, what is being said to us. Setting an intention to ABSORB ensures we become present and remain in the moment to listen, which is the first of our Curiosity Skills. ABSORB stands for:
- A—Attention – bring you attention to the speaker so you can listen
- B—Body Language and Tone of Voice – pay attention to what your body is doing, are you looking at and facing the speaker? Is your tone of voice and body language congruent to what you are saying?
- S—Stop and Focus – stop what you are doing (emails, phone, reading etc) focus on the speaker
- O—Open to Understanding, Not Judging – let go of any preconceived thoughts or ideas and be open to hear what the listener has to say, even if you don’t agree with it
- R—Repeat through Paraphrase – paraphrase back what you hear to ensure you are on the same page (It sounds like… What I hear is … )
- B—Becalm the Gremlins – Quiet the chatter in your head (like judgment or to-do lists) so you can focus on the speaker and listen to what they have to say
As people put their first Curiosity Skill into practice and choose to be fully present and ABSORB what others are saying, they begin to have a different experience in their conversations, learning more about the person speaking to them. Sometimes others even thank them for listening! When we are fully present and actively listen to others, we create an experience for listeners that can evolve into a powerful learning experience for them as well. They may even become converts, beginning to intentionally and actively listen to others themselves. (We go deeper into this Curiosity Skill in The Power Of Curiosity: How to Have Real Conversations That Create Collaboration, Innovation and Understanding)
Take Action: As you enter your conversations, set an intention to be curious and learn one new thing about the person you are speaking to—even if it is someone you have known your whole life. Ground yourself in the here and now, use your first Curiosity Skill to ABSORB what the speaker is saying, and see what you learn.
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What if I like to judge others?
Don’t beat yourself up! We all judge and often without even knowing it.
- Pay attention to who you judge and why. How often are you doing it?
- For who’s benefit are you judging. How does it make you feel?
- Notice, what you learn or contribute to and from a conversation when you judge. How are you impacting others?
See “How can I increase happiness in my life?”. Next week we will answer “How do I get people to listen to me?”