Being present with another human being has got to be the most beautiful experience anyone can have. As someone who has spent a life seeking strategies to manage ADHD and pervasive distractibility, this ability has been hard won.
I discovered a powerful and unique strategy for quickly connecting with another human being, one I’m privileged to share with you.
The basic idea of being present doesn’t lend itself to the kind of emotional energy a brain like mine needs in order to stay alert and focused.
Simply being aware of everything in the moment as it arises is wonderful. However, the ADHD mind needs additional stimulation in order to maintain this awareness. Or it can drift off so deeply into itself that the original intention of being present is lost.
What can one do under these circumstances?
You can begin with the end in mind. When spending time with someone, I suggest making two decisions beforehand.
- Decide which of your values you want to show up with during your time together (e.g. love, respect, understanding).
- Decide on a strategy for how the person you are with will experience that value as a result of your time together. Say you choose to practice the value of understanding another. I have yet to meet another person who doesn’t want to be understood. Therefore, this is a value that you can use as your go-to value especially when meeting someone for the first time.
Conceptualizing the strategy for understanding another person begins by asking yourself this question: What do I need to believe, say, and do in order to honor this person’s right to be understood by me?
One belief is embedded in the question. The belief that the other person has a right to be understood. You can even reframe that belief to say, “The person in front of me has a right to feel understood.”
It’s important to understand that this strategy is not transactional, as in, I’m not going to do it unless you do it. This is you stepping up in a highly proactive way. Doing your part to create a beautiful moment between you and the person you’re with.
Whichever belief you choose, these are the next questions to ask
- Based on my belief, what would I say in order to help the other person feel understood by me?
- Based on my belief, what must I do in order to help the other person feel understood by me?
There is likely a fly in the ointment here and it’s the fact that you are not a mind-reader and could be off-base in your sense of what the other person wants to see and hear in order to feel understood.
Hence, there is a need for promises to check in with the other person by saying, “May I check in with you for a moment? I want to make sure I understand you correctly.”
You then proceed to share what you’ve heard so far, with emphasis on the meaning you infer from what you are being told. You then give the other person an opportunity to confirm or correct your understanding before moving on.
For the mind that already practices a similar strategy, this can seem like common sense. For the mind that is wired for wandering, this can feel at first like a momentous effort, which is why such a concrete instruction is both helpful and necessary.
How effective listening leads to true mindfulness
There are, of course, mindfulness purists who will likely reject my suggestions, advocating for a mind free of any agenda and simply staying open for whatever arises in that moment.
I don’t believe for one second that even the most mindful person who takes the time to be present for another isn’t at least coming from the belief that giving another person that time and attention is important. So you see, there’s always some sort of desire to be satisfied and that’s okay. As long as the needs of both people are met to the highest extent possible.
Take some time to contemplate this. See if it enhances the degree of focus, intention, and self-determination that you bring to each moment you have the privilege of spending with another human being.
You’ll be grateful you did.
Oh, one last thing. You can close the time you spent together by saying, “Thank you for helping me to understand you better. You deserve it.”
Thanks for being you.
Featured photo credit: Greatist via greatist.com