Oct 9, 2016

Are you there?

Have you ever found yourself having a conversation with someone and just by looking at them and watching their demeanor, you can sense that they’re zoning out, that you're losing them to some other world that exists only in their minds?  You could say things like, I woke up to a gorilla in my bed this morning, or My hair caught on fire last night, and they wouldn’t even notice.   You know this is especially true when they respond, Oh, really?  That’s nice.  You give them the stare and they finally snap out of it and say, what?

To be on this side of a conversation is frustrating, isn’t it? 

Let’s be honest here, friends.  We. Are. Distracted.  Probably more now than we've ever been before.  In fact, even as you’re reading this, I’m going to guess that you’re trying to do a million other things, or people are vying impatiently for your attention, or your mental to-do list is relentlessly nagging at you that there are so many more important tasks at hand rather than reading this post.  Any truth to that? 

You won’t hurt my feelings.  I promise.

But let's think about this.  When we speak to each other, how does our interest come across with regards to what the other person is saying?  In other words, how often are you so engaged that you don’t find yourself sitting there, merely half-listening, rehearsing how you’re going to respond or what story/comment/remark you want to jump in with to share?  How often are you simply silent while listening, leaning forward in your chair to visibly demonstrate that what they have to say is valuable (because it is)?  Have you ever been on the receiving end of a conversation like that one?  It feels good, doesn't it?

Special.  Worthy.  Honoring. 

I'm the first to admit that I’m quite often pondering what I’m going to say next when talking to someone, or interrupting with a few words here and there, because heaven forbid we have a lull in conversation.  I think it’s important for us to remember, however, the message that this is sending.  It’s subtly saying that what I have to say is more important than what YOU have to say.  And that’s not at all the message I want to send.  I imagine it’s not the message you want to send, either.

Isn’t it safe to say that sometimes we just want - need - someone to sit with us and be silent?  Fully present?
My sister is a great example of this.  When I moved out of my house and into my parents’ home in 2014 after my separation, she and I were just standing there in the basement towards the end of the day with boxes piled all around us, knee-deep in my “new normal” and I broke down in tears of sadness and grief over a marriage that was slipping out of my hands.  I felt such a tremendous, palpable loss; almost too much to bear.  Without even thinking, she walked over and put her arms around me and I buried my face in her shoulder.  She didn’t provide empty words of comfort or tell me what I wanted to hear.  She knew my sadness was real and raw and that I needed to feel it, so she was just…there.  What a gift.

Life is all about paying attention, right?  Even Ferris Bueller said it himself - “Life moves pretty fast.  If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”   #ferrisbuellersdayoff

So let me ask you…what are we missing out on when we’re not fully present to those around us?

What, or more tragically, WHO might you be drifting away from?  How present are your conversations?


  1. I am for sure always thinking of how to respond. What a great reminder that silence can be best.

  2. Silence can be uncomfortable, unless it's with the right person. There's a level of trust in the silence, that you're not just filling the void. I agree, we need more silence, more listening.