I was recently out in public and I ran into someone I knew. I knew this person well enough that they were able to recall a few specific things about my life and they struck up a conversation by asking me a question that required a thoughtful response. I was happy to engage in conversation at this point and started to respond until it became evident that they only asked the question as an attempt to be polite and didn’t really care to listen for my answer. Their eyes were looking over my shoulder and they seemed completely disengaged. For a second, I almost turned around to see what was distracting them, but instead, I just decided to quickly end the conversation and move on. How irritating. Why would this person choose to begin a conversation they weren’t going to be present for? A friendly wave or simple acknowledgement would have been fine if they were busy with something else. I walked away from that encounter feeling unheard and unseen. I walked away feeling small.
Have you ever experienced something similar?
Now, I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt in situations like this, mostly, because it helps me to move on and not waste energy on things I can’t control. I’m sure I’ve also unintentially been on the other side. So, maybe this person was just distracted with something else that was really important or they were having a bad day. Either way, I’m actually grateful for this interaction, as irritating as it was. It has reminded me the importance of being present with people.
I’ve been reading a book about creating meaningful, everyday interactions. One of the chapters is simply called, Be Present. The author mentions a similar interaction to the one I just shared and urged his readers to avoid being disengaged during conversation. His challenge was to be fully engaged in conversation or not be engaged in conversation at all. If you are in a situation where you cannot fully engage with the individual in front of you, pull yourself away from that conversation.
Now, if you’re like me, you might be thinking, “Well that’s good and all, but I can’t help if I can’t be fully engaged while I’m in the middle of something.” I’m sure we can all think of 100 times during our day that we are getting interrupted. This is not something that can simply be avoided. What if, instead of getting frustrated by our interruptions, we learn to welcome them?
Jesus welcomed interruptions. Love that about him.
- On his way to heal Jairus’ daughter, a sick woman reached out to touch him and be healed. – Mark 5: 21-32
- While preaching in a house, a sick man was lowered in through the roof to be healed by Jesus. – Luke 5: 17-20
I have to admit that this is an area I really need to grow in. I am easily annoyed about being interrupted and I’m guilty of not being fully present in my interactions and conversations.
Would you consider joining me in learning to embrace interruptions as opportunities to connect with people?
Something simple as intentional eye contact is incredibly powerful. It doesn’t have to be weird or uncomfortable, but acknowledging someone enough to look them in the eyes is a great place to start.
Can we be intentionally present during everyday interactions with our coworkers, family members, spouses and even strangers? Can we look our waitress in the eyes and call her by name? Can we ask the cashier at the grocery store how their day is going and actually wait for their answer?
Let’s try it, friends. Let’s care about people like that.
Be the type of person that makes everybody feel like somebody.