As I was landing in San Diego on Monday morning, I saw someone wearing a shirt with the Google marker symbol (you know, the one on the left there) and underneath it said “I am here.” Witty. Of course you are. But as I gave it more thought, I began to wonder – sure you’re here. But are you HERE.
A lot has changed in my life in the last 6 months. I’ve lost a close friend. I’ve made several new friends and gained an adopted family. I’ve left a job I’ve had for over 5 years. I’ve contemplated a relocation. So although I know where I am physically at all times – it’s made me wonder where have I been mentally?
I came to realize that there are people who are never here when they’re here. You know who I’m talking about. And at times, more than I care to admit, it’s been me. And I’m sure it’s definitely been you. All of us at one time or another are in a meeting, with a friend, sitting with family and simply not paying attention. At my last job, email was my vice. I’d be at my desk talking with someone and the second a new email came in I would instantly look over at the computer – and sometimes even start typing. All while being present with someone else. It’s a behavior I knew I was doing at the time, I even APOLOGIZED while doing it to the person across the table. But after you’ve done that to someone 3 or 4 times the apology becomes hollow. I wasn’t really there.
I see phones becoming the new teleportation device. You’re sitting across the table from me, but I know you’re not there. You’re in your phone. You’re tweeting. You’re Facebooking. You’re texting. You’re doing anything but listening to me – even though you’re doing a GREAT job pretending. I imagine everyone could name at least 5 times in the last day when they’ve done that. Or had someone do it to them. Have we really become that rude as a society? Have I become that rude as a person?
The last 2 weeks I’ve had nothing but time on my hands. No multitasking. No doing two things at once. No pressure to accomplish 400 things in a day that can handle 200. It’s been a short time, but I’ve noticed 2 behavioral changes that just sort of occurred. Neither is rocket science, but I want to call them out – as painfully obvious as they are – because I notice more and more that doing just these two things would inject a little respect back into our lives:
- When I get a phone call (or make one), I stop what I’m doing. Close the computer. Mute the TV. And take the call. I’m 100% present for the person on the other end of the phone. It’s a refreshing step forward in breaking a bad habit.
- When I’m live with someone, unless I’m expecting a very important phone call, I turn off the ringer on my phone. I don’t put it on vibrate. I put it on SILENT. Occasionally the screen will light up and distract me, but more often than not, the call, text, Facebook update or tweet can wait until I’m finished with my lunch/dinner/interview/conversation.
Those two simple things allow me to absorb more of what’s going on around me, participate more fully in every conversation and interaction and generally, be a better person to those in my life. Eventually I’ll be busy again with work, life and other things but I’m going to make a very hard effort to keep both of these new behaviors in tact as I get back to a more normal routine.
But it’s amazing what a little break can do for you, isn’t it?