I have a "life rule": give everyone I meet a gift even if it's only a kind word, a smile, or a thank you. However, I recently realized that there's a truly priceless gift I can give the people who are important in my life: family, friends, colleagues and clients.
That gift? Being 100% present and in the moment.
It's a rare gift nowadays. Today it's almost impossible to have a face-to-face conversation without somebody pulling out a phone. It's even worse if you're having a phone conversation. People check their emails, browse websites, even play computer games.
While it's convenient to multitask, giving somebody your complete attention to the other person during a conversation is a gift of the most precious and limited commodity there is: an undiluted percentage of the time that you'll be alive on this earth.
Let me give you an example of how important this gift can be.
My wife's parents divorced when she was four years old and her mother relocated from California to New England. As a result, she only saw her father during the summer and then only when he wasn't on business trips.
A few years back, she invited him to lunch for a rare one-on-one. She was really looking forward to it. However, during the entire meal, he kept taking calls on his cell phone. She didn't say anything at the time, but it really hurt her feelings.
Now, don't get me wrong. My father-in-law is a truly great guy whom I deeply respect. At that moment, though, he needed to give his daughter the gift of his full attention.
I think that sort of thing happens all the time in business. Essential relationships are stressed and damaged because people forget that real, live human beings are more always more important than technology.
I've had phone conversations where the other person was obviously doing something else. I get it. I've been there. They're busy. They're multitasking. I don't hold it against them. It's just the way things are today.
However, every time I've had somebody's complete attention, I've come away feeling that I've been heard, that I matter to this person. It's a gift for which I am always grateful.
It works the other way, too. When I give this gift of my full attention, it's usually returned in kind. And that creates those precious moments when you truly connect, when you deepen and enrich the relationship.
So next time you're having a conversation, give the gift of your full attention. If you're face-to-face, turn off your phone. If you're on the phone, turn off your computer. Be 100% present and in the moment.