If cost were no issue, which would you rather have:
- An authentic Rolex or a cheap knock off
- The Hope diamond or a rhinestone
- An authentic painting by Rembrandt or an imitation
We all want the real thing instead of a cheap imitation, right? Then why do we so willingly exchange real, authentic, in-person interactions with those closest to us, for a cheap imitation of social media and electronic communication with people who aren’t even there?
Before we go any further, let me just say that I am not against social media, e-mail, texting, or any other form of electronic communication. I use many of them myself, and think they are great tools for communicating and staying connected. However, I do think they are a barrier to communication when we use these tools while in the presence of our loved ones, taking our attention away from them, in order to observe the lives of other people that aren’t even present.
We’ve all seen the couple or group setting together at a restaurant or public place, where someone in the party has their face buried in their smart phone, totally ignoring everyone around them. They obviously think enough of the person or people they’re with to be seen in public together. Yet the smart phone appears to be more interesting, more important, than the people they are physically present with.
What kind of message does this send to the people we’re with when we consciously choose to interrupt our interaction with them in order to answer the slightest noise or vibration from our smart phone? Does this make them feel valued, appreciated, respected, or loved? Perhaps, but I doubt it.
One of my greatest experiences of someone showing me value and respect was early in my career, before smart phones were even popular. I was new in my position and needed guidance from Anne, an expert in her department who was in high demand as a senior talent at our organization. I scheduled some time on her calendar and was sitting in her office as she was explaining how our systems and applications work. During our meeting her phone rang, but Anne didn’t budge. Normally, people in our organization would have just answered the phone, regardless of whether someone was sitting in their office, so I was kind of expecting her to do likewise. After a couple of rings I said, “Did you want to get that?” Her answer blew me away. Still ignoring the ringing phone, she said, “No. I’m talking with you right now.”
I can’t remember a time since then in my professional career when I have felt more acknowledged, valued, and appreciated than Anne made me feel that day, all by simply giving me her uninterrupted attention.
Is there someone in your life who would love to feel valued and appreciated by the gift of your uninterrupted attention? Starting today, look for opportunities to unplug from the grid momentarily and simply enjoy being in the presence, the uninterrupted presence, of those you love and care for. Choose the genuine, authentic experience of being an active participant who is focused on the person or people that are present with you, instead of settling for a cheap imitation of being a virtual spectator to someone else’s life who isn’t even there. The people you’re with will notice. Your actions will tell them that you value and care enough about them to give them your undivided attention.
What a great gift to give to others… as well as to receive.