Are we really present these days? How many places can we be at one time?
In business meetings, I see people having conversations while at the same time responding to emails on their Blackberrys (myself included!). Are we really present with the person we are in front of? How urgent is it that we respond right away?
I just came back from a one-day seminar I presented in South Africa, where I brought my 12-year-old son with me for a week vacation after the event. For the first time in a long time, we spent the best quality time together without being somewhere else. When’s the last time you spent a day with your kids, friends, or spouse without the interruption of technology?
Don’t get me wrong, technology has its place just as the automobile, but just because I have one doesn’t mean I drive it around the block all day long. My relationship with my son has never been stronger. I did not bury myself in my emails and he did not disappear into a video game. Building strong relationships does not happen through email, Facebook, or any venue as powerful as being in the present and being present.
While writing this piece, I decided to reach out to Michael “Dr. Woody” Woodward, Ph.D., executive coach and author of The YOU Plan, to get his thoughts on this notion of being present. According to Dr. Woody, “both our personal and professional lives have become dominated by our need for constant and immediate communication.” He went on to say that “we have created this general expectation that if you ping me on my wireless device, I must get back to you ASAP, otherwise I’m somehow slighting you by not making your need for a response a priority.” Our attachments to our mobile devices have even gotten to the point where we will interrupt in-person one-on-one conversations in favor of checking that ding coming from my pocket. “It’s as if we have lost our ability to engage those standing right in front of us,” said Dr. Woody. I tend to agree, which is the reason I chose to bring my son to South Africa in the hopes of escaping at least some of the digital distraction.
When it comes to social media, the distractions can be even more challenging. Just recently the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) took up the case of a woman who was fired for trashing her boss on Facebook. According to Dr. Woody “what’s unfortunate about this case is the fact that this woman chose to turn her dispute into a nasty public rant instead of first handling the matter in private with the relevant parties or through proper channels.” This type of display seems to be something we are seeing more of these days. He went on to say, “it worries me that social media has become a vehicle for uncontrolled and reckless venting.”
At the end of the day there’s a real need to not only be present, but also thoughtful in our interactions. So, every time you are tempted to pick up that device or update your status, you should ask yourself, can it wait just a few minutes? Do I really need to divert myself from the current conversation?
The past is history, the future is a mystery and today is a gift, that’s why they call it the present.
This entry was posted on Thursday, December 9th, 2010 at 6:00 AM and is filed under Business, Inspiration. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.