A popular article here on my blog is “Relationship Gold” where I talk about the power and importance of kindness in a healthy and happy relationship. Equally important is the relationship gem of Being Present. This has the power to revive a weak relationship and keep a good one healthy. If any of your relationships are in need of some help, then please read on.
How Does It Feel For You?
In your relationships, how often do you really pay attention to the other person? How often is your attention only half there or, worse, not there at all? How often are you distracted by an electronic device or caught up in your own thoughts? How does it feel for you when you are on the receiving end of, well, not receiving?
In a lot of ways this is very normal, so don’t beat yourself up. But, now that you are aware of it, it’s time to do something about it.
Being Present: What Does That Mean?
Being present means giving all your attention to the other person. We can’t be present all the time, but it is important to make time to do this on a regular basis. Think about how you feel when someone is actively listening to you and is interested in what you have to say? Feels pretty darn good, right? What does their actions say to you when someone really listens? You probably feel respected and liked in a big way.
Now imagine if you gave that feeling to your partner, your child, your parent, your sibling, or your friend? Imagine if you gave them that little gem on a regular basis? What do you think would happen? I’ll tell you what I’ve experienced. It will strengthen your relationship. It will repair broken walls and cracked foundations.
Not only will the other person feel respected and liked, but you will receive something too, that also reinforces the relationship. You will gain compassion for the other person. By truly listening and becoming interested in the other person you start to develop a deeper understanding of that person. Judgement falls away and in it’s place arises a warmer heart in you.
Being Present: How to Do It
There’s not much to it, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. This is especially true if you have a strong habit of checking email, answering the phone, watching TV, surfing the web, etc. while someone is talking to you. But any habit can be broken and a new one started at any time. The saying about old dogs couldn’t be less true! It’s all about wanting to change and then taking action.
- GIVE ATTENTION: When you are with your friend, partner, lover for some relaxation time put all your attention into listening and being interested in them.
- MAKE THE TIME: Be conscious of making this time happen as often as will fit into your relationship schedule. So maybe that means first thing in the morning for couples. Or maybe it means at lunchtime with a friend. Or it might mean an evening phone call with a parent or sibling.
- TURN OFF DISTRACTIONS: Turn off electronic devices. You can watch TV together later, but keep in mind that that does not count as Being Present time. Even if you are on the phone with the other person, do not be looking at a computer, TV or cell phone while having a conversation. That is not Being Present.
- IGNORE PHONES: Don’t answer the phone unless you know it’s urgent. And what is urgent? It should mean that answering it will help avoid a problem. If it’s just “interesting” urgent then it’s not urgent.
- COMMUNICATE: Listen actively by asking questions. Cultivate interest in what the other person is saying. Being interested is a choice.
- RELEASE JUDGEMENT: We humans love to judge. This happens especially in close relationships. We want the other person to do things differently or to think differently. During your time of Being Present, release judgement. Approach with the kindness and openness that we give to a new acquaintance. The opposite of judgement is kindness or compassion. Cultivate this by trying to understand the other person’s struggles, recognizing that their struggles are no less challenging than our own.
- CLOSING WHILE GROWING THE CHAIN: Wrap up your time together with a bow. Say thank you for the time. Express your feelings. Plan for the next quality time together. This might be most difficult for people who live together, but I think it is important because we can’t be present all the time. We have chores to do, we do need to take phone calls, we need to plan for tomorrow. But we make our time together quality by putting brackets around it, by not allowing interruptions during that quality time. And we build our relationship when we explicityly plan for the next time at the end of each quality time together. It gives each person something to look forward to and helps us to be patient with each other when we have work to do and can’t be present.
What is your favorite way to be present in your relationship? I want to hear from YOU!
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