In one of my last posts, I talked about focusing on one thing at a time and how a lifestyle of multitasking can actually decrease your efficiency. Some of the principles will apply to today’s post as well, so you can read “part one” here. In this post, I’ll be talking about placing value on people, relationships, and conversations by being intentional about your presence.
What do I mean by “intentional presence”?
At its root, “presence” is simply existence. You are always “present” somewhere, or in some fashion. Intentional presence, therefore, is deciding exactly what you want to be doing in whatever space you are existing. In other words, making a conscious decision about what is using your time and energy.
How it relates to people: You can give quality time to the person you are with, rather than dividing your attention.
Giving a person quality time and being intentionally present means not allowing yourself to be distracted, not being on your phone, and not multi-tasking at the expense of quality conversation.
A few exceptions should be noted. No one expects you to set aside everything else any time another person is in the room with you. The point of intentional presence is to be purposeful with your time with others. If you decide something really needs to be done, then do it. I would, however, like to encourage you not to make it a habit to do “all the things” when you had planned to give quality time to another person. Here are a few exceptions I can think of: 1. When kids are around and may require some attention, 2. When you’re in a group and conversations change and move among people, or 3. If you’ve agreed to do some activity during your time together.
Why should I intentionally be present with people?
The biggest reason to give people quality time is that it shows the person how much you value them. If I’m trying to talk to someone and they’re so busy they don’t answer, they’re looking at their phone, or something similar…I’m going to feel a little sad, and assume they don’t value conversation with me. (Maybe they really don’t, and I should find another friend! Ha!).
Another reason to give your attention to the person you’re with is they will distract you from the other things you were trying to pay attention to. As I talked about in my “One Thing at a Time” post, multitasking often takes away from your efficiency.
A third reason is simply that you may miss something important. If you decided to have a conversation, go ahead and learn all that you can from that person.
How can I practice intentional presence with family, friends, and others?
The number one barrier to intentional presence in our modern world is the cell phone. My heart breaks a little when I see a couple out on a “date”, both staring at their phones. This is so clearly communicating the lack of intentionality and value of their time together.
My family has a little basket by the door that our phones go into when we are home together. If we need to contact someone or look at something on our phones, we can go use it, but it goes right back in the basket. Since our phones no longer follow us around the house, it requires intentionally walking over to use it (like an old cord phone!), rather than picking it up every 5 seconds, almost sub-consciously.
While phones are the biggest thing that interferes with intentionally being present with others, other distractions may arise for you as well. I recently noticed another example of divided attention while at my Church’s youth group bible study. At the start of our meeting, everyone was talking and catching up. I hadn’t adequately studied for the lesson, however, so I was reviewing notes and not giving my whole attention to the students. By not planning ahead, I was taking away from the time that I should have been spending talking with them.
I like to think of it in “percentages” of attention. What percent of myself, or my attention, am I giving this person? For example, if your main focus is a phone or other distraction, you may be only giving 20% attention to the person you’re talking to. Whether it is a conversation with your spouse, time with your kids, or a casual talk with someone after Church or a meeting, anyone you talk to will appreciate your new sense of intentional presence.