Here’s something to notice today, as you interact with people: Are you both fully present as you interact, or are either of you distracted, with your minds in another place and time?

The first step to creating a relationship-building encounter, instead of a relationship-eroding transaction, is for you and the person with whom you are interacting to be 100% present, fully-engaged in the moment.

Throughout the day today, pay attention, and in each interaction you have with another person rate how present each of you were. Maybe you were on a cell phone call as you paid for things at Walgreens. Don’t give yourself a high grade on that one – 30%, max. Maybe you could tell that your client was checking emails while you talked to him on the phone. He was certainly less that 100% present.

On the other hand, maybe you and another person had a great discussion about a project, and for 20 minutes neither of you was distracted by anything. Give yourselves an A+, 100%. Or you went into an appliance store and a sales clerk completely engaged with you and helped you figure out the perfect flat screen for your living room. Grade both of you highly.

Being present, fully engaged in the moment, is tough, especially in our multi-tasking, over-busy, deadline-driven world. But, even though being fully present is difficult, you can’t have a relationship-building encounter with a customer if you aren’t 100% there, engaged in the moment. So the choice is clear. Be scattered, giving your customers a portion of your attention, and have transactions. Or, be fully present, engaged in the moment, and have the chance at relationship-building encounter.

If you haven’t downloaded my free ebook, Encounters, please do. (Or, see Chapter 2 in We) There are many tips for helping yourself be fully-present in a customer encounter, and ideas for inviting your customer to be engaged in the moment with you.

But, for today, just notice. Pay attention to the level of engagement in your interactions.

And remember, if you answer your cell phone or check your Blackberry while you are talking with someone, you are not fully present. Like being absent on the day of a pop quiz, your grade will drop. Resist the temptation! Be there!


  • Jayakumar Hariharan
    May 03, 2008 - 05:37 am

    Being there is the hardest skill to acquire, not just in professional relationships, but in personal relationships too!

    Jay, from Bangalore

  • Steve Yastrow
    May 05, 2008 - 21:59 pm

    A number of people (women) have mentioned to me that their spouses (husbands) are often not 100% present, because they are always distracted by their Blackberry/Treo/iPhone/etc.

    One woman said she told her husband that his Treo was aptly named, because “there are always three of us when we’re together, you, me and it.”

  • david
    May 07, 2008 - 22:00 pm

    This is the current curse of our culture, and the great lesson offered by Zen Buddhism, among other meditative traditions.

    The problem isn’t merely multi-tasking: it’s the stories we tell, and are told, about why we **need** to be multi-tasking that occlude our vision and make it impossible to enter into encounter, which is the basis of all fruitful human interaction.

    One problem is that when you are deeply present with people who are chronic multi-taskers, they get uncomfortable but often aren’t sure why. They feel as though your eyes are drilling holes in their forehead, when all you’re really doing is focusing on them and on what they say.

    This kind of deep focus may become a thing of the past. Techno-etiquette may require that you look only at your BlackBerry by talking with someone who’s physically threatened.

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