I had a conversation with an acquaintance recently that consisted of her talking about herself. Allegedly we were talking about our respective upcoming plans, but it soon became apparent that she wasn’t interested in mine. Not a big deal, to be sure. Yet, it got me thinking. How many times have I done the same thing – gotten so into my own head that I wasn’t really engaged in a conversation?
In order to communicate, both people need to be present. This doesn’t mean that they have to be physically close, but they do need to give their full attention to the person with whom they’re speaking.
Being fully present in today’s hectic world can be a challenge. Yet the practice, often called mindfulness, is good for your mental health and productivity. You don’t have to engage in regular meditation to benefit. Joyfully engaging in the present can reduce stress, increase focus on things you can control and make work more enjoyable.
Here are some tips to get you started with being more mindful:
Do one thing at a time. Multi-tasking is, at best, inefficient. When you want to accomplish something, devote your entire self to the task in order to do your best work.
Remove distractions. Don’t allow background buzz to take your mind elsewhere. Find a quiet place where you can focus. Some people can screen out background noise better than others. If that is a problem for you, consider a white noise machine for your work space.
Revel in what you’re doing. Even the most mundane chores can be uplifting. When you wash the dishes, do only that. Feel the warm water and smell the soapy aroma. When you’re talking to someone, really tune in to them, their feelings, body language and ideas. As Corita Kent said, “Love the moment, and the energy of the moment will spread beyond all boundaries.”
If you can’t give your full attention, say so. If you’re in a conversation and can’t seem to attend, let the other person know. It is far better to say, “My headache is a distraction,” so that the other person is aware of the situation, and you can both adjust accordingly.
Create a visual cue. Mindfulness is not difficult. It is just hard to remember to do it. Use a picture or other reminder to help you slow down and be present.
Thich Nhat Hanh said, “The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence.” Be generous with others today, and everyone will benefit from the experience.
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