When was the last time you entered a conversation with the deliberate intent to focus your attention on the interests, needs and desires of your partner? Usually we are motivated to speech in order to meet our own immediate needs: to gain someone’s attention or to get something done. I tell my spouse about my work day because I need to vent. My son reminds me that he’s due for a play date with his friend this week. My students ask me where we will be having class.
What happens, however, when we take the opportunity to turn the norm on it’s head. What if, we entered the conversation wanting to find out not just how our conversation partner is doing and we also took the time to listen fully to his response? What would happen if, when my son reminds me about wanting to see his friend, that I took the time to acknowledge how important this is to him and perhaps asked him to tell me more about this friend? What if, instead of bowling over my husband with my incredible “news of the day” as soon as he has a chance to sit down, I instead, offer him something to drink and ask him about whatever is on his mind (or maybe just let him choose not to share…)?
I raise these questions because I recently ran across a text I wrote several years ago in which I describe this outlook: “It’s you” or “It’s about you.” The text surprised me with both its clarity and passion. I offer it here as food for thought from which we can all benefit:
When we have a conversation and my attitude says, “it’s about you,” then my focus, my presence, my eyes even are centered on you and your feelings, thoughts, expressions. “It’s you” involves putting our own judgments, sentiments and opinions on hold while we address our full attention to the other. We not only listen, we take in, duplicate, and create space for our partner to express what is most important to him or her. We not only make eye contact with our partner but show through our eyes, facial expression and body language that we are with him or her, present for whatever he or she needs to communicate.
When we are sincere in our perspective of “it’s about you,” miracles can happen. We open the floodgates of possibility by shifting the spotlight from ourselves to our partners. We can create space for the other to feel valued, appreciated, understood. We can open ourselves to the love, generosity, and warmth that reside in each of us and in turn offer it to those with whom we come in contact. We can create a state of inner abundance by recognizing that our capacity to give increases as we assist, support and accompany others on their journeys.
A short fairy tale illustrates this beautifully:
A young prince sought to meet his beloved maiden and knocked on the door of her chamber. “Who’s there?” asked a female voice from inside. “It’s me,” the young prince replied.
“In this room there is not enough space for you and me,” came the response and the door remained quite closed.
The young prince went away and traveled for many months. He contemplated the maiden’s answer and when he believed to have found the better response he returned to her door. He knocked.
“Who’s there?” came the query from inside. The prince responded: “It’s you,” and the door was opened and he entered.
Try working with this perspective. Consider it an avenue on the way to full presence for others, a means to seek the best possible in people and situations. Be prepared to find out how much more you can be when you focus your precious attention on others. There is hardly a greater gift we have to offer the people we know and care about.