Have you ever chatted with someone and halfway through the conversation you realize that they're not really listening to you?
Of course you have. Who hasn't?
It's frustrating and these days, we're seeing even more of it because everyone is busy having artificial relationships with other people or things on their hand held devices.
Virtual relationships are so much easier than actual ones. You virtually don't have to show up.
I'm writing this following a lecture I recently attended. There was one presenter and about a dozen listeners, myself among them. As I looked up from my cell phone, I looked around and noticed that many of the others were also on their hand held devices. The speaker didn't seem to care. He just kept going. I guess he just said to himself...
"Who cares? I'm still getting paid."
Still, I just couldn't shake the feeling that we were being totally rude. We weren't showing up for this guy who was there for OUR benefit.
Have you been noticing how more and more pop stars like Beyoncé, Adele and Justin Bieber have been asking fans at their concerts to shut down their cameras and really BE where they are?
These days, people really seem to have trouble showing up. I’m tempted to blame this on Attention Deficit Disorder, but that implies that most people are compulsive and don’t have free will. Bull. We are choosing to show up or not show up.
Even when many people show up in the flesh, they're still not there. Their heads are someplace else. In fact, I'd venture to say that in this digital age, we're only truly where we are about half of the time. Most people in Starbucks aren't really THERE. My guess is that if they were, they'd wake up and revolt against those coffee prices. Still, you can’t blame Starbucks for being wickedly genius about getting people to hang out. Marketing 101.
But I digress.
People are with you, but not really WITH you. People are hearing you, but are they listening? It's SO disrespectful. I'm just as guilty as the next person. And do you know what makes it so disrespectful? The complete lack of awareness that it's disrespectful.
I've come to realize that as human beings, we'll go to great lengths to avoid true human contact and interaction. Men will spend all-day-everyday talking with other men about sports. It's totally artificial babble created from behind smokescreens. Translation? It's bullcrap.
I think it's the same with gossip. Gossip is a way of relating to other people without truly relating to them. It's a way to appear to be hip, haughty and educated without revealing too much of your own interior struggle and pain. As a result, you hurt someone else by spreading rumors. Of course, when the investigation into the gossip leads back to you, you don't admit to it. You don't show up and claim your damage.
We've got to learn how to truly show up for other people. Many of us cannot even show up for others when emailing or texting them. Rarely do people acknowledge others with a salutation in an email anymore. Is it so hard to say, "Dear Michael" or "Dear Susan" before launching into your written monologue?
When we do show up, we really don't because we're not truly there. We're there in body, but not emotionally. Maybe we do this because we just don't want to invest all of this energy into something or someone who we know has the potential to hurt us ... or at least become a big waste of our time.
This world would be a different place if people showed up. Being present matters ... not just in body, but in mind and spirit. It's important to really BE THERE for people.
I'm thinking again about how frustrated some of these pop stars must get on stage when they look out at a sea of cell phone cameras staring back at them. That is NOT an authentic experience for the fans or the celebrity. The people who are recording these concerts may as well be watching the show on HBO. It just makes no sense.
I mean, are we trading our actual lives for virtual ones? Call me crazy, but that seems like a hideous trade off.
Years ago, I was at an event with a friend who was a television news photographer. Afterward, he told me that it felt good to actually BE in the audience - during his time off - without having to photograph the event. He felt like he was TRULY there.
Documenting things doesn't necessarily mean you're there. It means you're documenting it. BEING THERE means you're there. BEING THERE means you actually showed up and you're intellectually and emotionally engaged. You're giving it your FULL attention ... you're putting yourself at risk of having an actual experience and not a virtual one. You're not doing something else while you're there.
At some point, we’ve got to give multi-tasking a rest and have a real experience … by being in the here and now.
I guess that I'm especially sensitive to people not showing up because I grew up with - actually without - a father who made constant promises, but he never followed through on them. He never showed up when he promised to pick me up and take me somewhere. In short, he was not a true father. I’m long over that, but I mention it as an example of how not showing up can have lasting implications.
It's painful when people don't show up because what they're saying by default is that you are not their top priority ... not even for a few minutes. We could spend all day on this, but you catch my drift.
So, how do you show up for someone?
1. Put down your cell phone and even put it away for a moment.
2. Turn off the TV and put down your pen and pad, knife and fork or book and remove your earbuds.
3. Position your body toward the person you're with.
4. Open your eyes and ears. Look the other person in the eyes.
5. Have an actual (not virtual) conversation with the person and be fully engaged. You are talking with them and not at them and when you're not talking, you're listening ... giving them your full attention.
6. Acknowledge the other person as a human being worthy of respect ... even if you don't necessarily like them. Put yourself in their shoes.
7. Mirror back to them what you think you hear them saying.
8. Most importantly, DO what you say you're going to do.
Seems ridiculously simplistic, doesn't it? Then why aren't you doing it?
I've come to realize that when you show up for other people or even a cause that you believe in, you're really showing up for yourself. Showing up means that you're honoring something outside of yourself. When you put this kind of energy out into the universe, it comes back at you in a great way. Since you were listening, the universe will listen to you when you need it.
Believe me, I know. Showing up ain't always easy. It's work. It takes a lot of effort to really BE there someone and then BE there for the next person and so on …
But here's the thing ...
If you don't really want to show up for somebody, do it anyway. They'll appreciate it and you don't even have to tell them that you're really doing it for yourself.
BE the person you KNOW you can and should be. Honor your commitments and they will honor you. Be present...