Mother Theresa stated that the most important person in the world is the one standing in front of us. Native Americans believed that the person in front of us is proporiety of the moment. If a pow wow was scheduled it was ok for a person to show up late as the people of the culture understand that one could cross paths with someone along the way. If that happened then a person should stop and focus on that person before proceeding to the pow wow. However, we live in a world with cell phones going off constantly, with televisions blasting, video games to be played and deadlines to be met. In a world of such loudness and chaos how do we possibly focus on the person in front of us? I have to admit that when someone is speaking to me that often I fail to make eye contact, am thinking of things I need to do, and if I'm in a crowd I'm looking at people around me. It seems nearly impossible in such a busy world to focus, to give my full attention to the person standing right in front of me.
Getting My Priorities Straight
The reality is that the person right in front of us should be the most important person in the world. They have feelings, thoughts, joys, heart breaks and a desire for attention just like we do. When we fail to focus on them we are being selfish and allowing ourselves to be distracted. This world is all about distraction. However, the person in front of us is so important that we should clear our mind and give them the respect they deserve. The world is not all about us. We live in a world of billions of people all with the desire to love and be loved. We must get our priorities straight and realize that all the stuff we think is important really isn't so important that we basically throw the person in front of us to the curb. It is disrespectful to not give them our full attention. We do not like it when others ignore us or when we feel like we have not truly been heard. So, why do that to others? Just as we like to feel like we matter, so should we show others that they matter enough for us to stop and listen. The video games, the phone call, the text can wait. The person in front of cannot.
How To Give Our Attention to the Person in Front of Us
That all sounds good and we all walk away from people at times with a grimace on our face knowing that we blew it. We know that we should have slowed down and listened and that we lost the chance to listen to someone who needed us at the moment. So, the next time you find someone talking to you and wanting your attention, what do you do?
Now, this may seem like a ridiculous piece of advice, but don't we fail too often to just simply stop?We cannot truly listen to someone if we are going. I often find myself asking people to run with me (I call it walking, but that is my cop out) while they talk. When I am in rapid motion I cannot truly soak in all that they are saying. Too, it says many negative things to them. It tells them that they are not really that important, that they are bothering me and that I am not really all that interested in what they have to say. So, the first step in seeing, truly seeing the person in front of you is stopping. Just stand there.
2. Take a deep breath
Most of us are under stress to get things done. I have to be honest, most of the things I swear that I have to get done could actually wait or never get done at all. If we want to really listen to the person and give them the attention that they deserve then it is helpful to take a deep breath, let the stress out and clear your mind. Sometimes I ask people to give me a moment to clear my mind. I go so far as to tell them that I am distracted and need a minute to clear my mind and focus. This communicates to them that they are important enough for me to slow down.
3. Ask them how they are doing
We do not need to jump right into the conversation. Jumping right in communicates again that they are bothering you and that they need to hurry and get what they need to say said. I have been guilty of telling people to hurry up and get their sentence finished. That is disrespectful. Starting by asking them how they are doing allows time to further focus on them. Too, you can gain clues as to how things are going with them and to understand if they need a friend at the moment.
This is one of the biggest ways to let them know that they matter and that they are wanted. Facial expressions say a lot more than our words. Smiling or really studying them as they talk shows them that they are appreciated and how important they are. Giving them this kind of respect will cause most people to return the favor when you need someone to listen to you.
5. Thank them for sharing
At the end of the conversation thank them for talking to you. Instill in them a sense of well being, a sense that they really added something beneficial to your life. Wish them a good day and move on
Making Life a Little Better
As I said before it is difficult in a world of noise, busyness and distractions to listen to each other. But as we stop and invest in each other by truly listening then we are making a better world. There is much talk about a better world and we all dream of what a better world would be like. Deep down we all sense that things are not right. We know there is something better to be had. We know that noise, stress and constant deadlines is not making us happy. But, by stopping and listening and having a calm conversation with each other we begin paving the way to a better world. I encourage you to take these principles and start practicing them. If you fail that is ok. It takes practice. In the high pace of modern life it isn't easy to slow down long enough to give someone our attention, but as you get into good practice of doing just that then you will discover that your life will take on a deeper, fuller and happier meaning.