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Flip Flippen: The Gift of Presence

I recently attended a meeting and only half the people who were there were really there.

What’s worse is that it was an important strategy planning meeting.

Then I thought about my wife, Susan. I had recently had a discussion with her about the same thing… except that she was sharing about how much it means to her when I am “present” with her. I have come to learn that it’s important to her for me to focus on her. I have also come to understand what it means when I am not really there.

The connection between the two meetings could not have been clearer to me. The problem is that we aren’t there when we are there. How many times have you had a discussion with someone who wasn’t there? I remember a politician who was running for office and, even before he shook my hand he had already moved on to the next person—he wasn’t there.

What does it mean to be present?

When does it seem to be most important? What difference does it make, especially in business? Let me try to answer those questions.

Being present is all about giving your full attention to the person and task at hand.

It means being focused, listening and responding. Somehow, it’s easy to tell when someone has lost me. For example, if I’m on the phone and not focused on what the other person is talking about, he or she will know it and that means I blew it. Being distracted is not something you can blame on having ADD.

Being focused is all about giving the other person the respect and attention they deserve.

In meetings, it’s about staying on task and tending to the needs of the people in the room. It means giving them attention and responding to them with eye contact and nodding and perhaps even making a note about what they are saying. In business, not being “present” basically means that you won’t get the sale, close the deal, hear the needs of the customer, respond to the people you serve, know what is going on, be able to anticipate the needs of your team or offer meaningful input. This raises a bigger question: “Why am I paying someone to not be here?” Some people want to be paid more—so then deliver more. Being absent will not help you make more money or, more important, a bigger difference.

Being present in marriage is perhaps the biggest financial investment you will ever make.

It means turning off the television when you are talking, putting your phone down, setting aside whatever you are working on and focusing on the other person. And how does that convert to a financial gain? Those who are fully present in their relationships are not as likely to have to split their assets in court! Being present is a great tool, but far more important, it’s a great gift to others.

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