“Cause all you see, is where else you could be …”
– Death Cab for Cutie, Your Heart is an Empty Room, from the album Plans
Isn’t it frustrating when you fully commit yourself to an interaction with someone, but you can tell that they aren’t fully engaged with you?
This happens all of the time – people’s eyes wander while you talk with them, their answers to your questions betray that they have lost the thread of the conversation, you hear them clicking away on their computer keyboard while you talk on the phone. Ugh.
Don’t feel like you’ve done something; it’s usually not your fault. As Eckardt Tolle said, the present is a place most of us visit only infrequently. Non-engagement is a symptom of our over-scheduled, over-saturated lives and the myth that we are able to multi-task.
But, it’s a big problem: The first requirement for a relationship-building encounter is that you and the other person are both fully-engaged in the moment. Without full engagement, you will have a relationship-diluting transaction.
Here’s my challenge to you for the upcoming week: Call people out when you see they are not engaged.
Ok. It’s a bit uncomfortable. But think of it this way: You are devoting valuable moments of your life to an interaction with someone, and they are not equally willing to commit to the encounter. You are there, and they aren’t. What a waste of your time. What a waste of a slice of life.
Go ahead. Say it. “Are you here with me?” “Do you want me to wait until you finish whatever it is you are typing, and then we can continue talking?” “Is something else distracting you? Do you want me to wait a minute while you take care of it?”
You are not the one who should feel uncomfortable. My associate, Caroline Ceisel, and I work together most every day. Caroline has no trouble telling me if she thinks my mind is elsewhere when we are talking about something. The result? I am especially conscious of giving her my full attention when we talk.
Do it. You will have an opportunity today. You will be speaking with someone and you will discern that their mind is wandering. Call the other person out. And then, watch what happens. They will not only engage more fully in the present moment, they will also engage more fully with you in the future.