05 Mar Being Present
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In the piece titled “He Took It Like A Man” I spoke about the importance as men of being present to our children, nieces and nephews. Yet to be present to another person, we must first be present to ourselves. We cannot be with another person if we have no experience of what it is to be with ourselves.
What do I mean by this?
I am not sure how you start your day but let’s take an average executive who wakes up, checks the phone, checks miss calls, messages then flick through to emails and scroll through to see what has come in during the night. He takes a break from the phone to shower, then goes back to the phone while hurriedly eating some toast. Who says men can’t multi-task?
He is eating toast, reading the news on his phone, drinking coffee and grunting in various frequencies at his partner/wife and various children. Of course, his partner/wife outdoes him in the multi-tasking stakes because as well as getting her breakfast, she has to get the kids lunch, check their uniforms, put on make-up and decode and interpret his grunts.
Coffee finished, he is already thinking about his first meeting and what he needs to say and how to say it and the reports he has to draft. Today isn’t his day for the school run so he heads straight into work, radio on in the car but not really listening to it as he plans the rest of the day.
If we were to ask our executive, “what are you feeling”?
He would probably look at us, blink and say “uhhh? What’du mean?”
“Well”, we would say, “do you feel happy? Do you feel content?”
The most likely response would be “dunno”.
The example is intentionally extreme to demonstrate what it is like not to be present to ourselves. To be so caught up in what we are doing we have no awareness of what we are feeling inside ourselves.
So what? You may be thinking.
Being aware of what we are feeling is essential if we are to have some ability to identify and understand what another person is experiencing and to be able emphasise with them. Take the TV ads that were on a while ago where a bloke comes up to his mate who is cooking the bbq and asks him if he is ok? The ad was encouraging us guys to look out for each other and to support one another. To be the bloke that goes up and asks your mate if he is ok requires you to have some awareness of what might be going on if a friend starts to withdraw and shut down.
If you have no awareness, you think “he’ll be right, he’s probably just having a few off days”.
The ability to identify what another person may be going through starts with being aware of what we are experiencing. It starts with us being present to ourselves, being aware of when we are happy, when we feel tense and uptight, when we feel joy, when we feel anger.
What has this to do with our children, our teenagers?
If you can’t identify what you are feeling, the chances of your being able to understand what your teenager is feeling is greatly reduced. The hormonal and growth surges of adolescence means that our teenagers can be all over the place emotionally. How often have our teenagers yelled in anger and/or frustration – “you don’t understand”.
Often, they are right, we don’t understand. We don’t understand what they are feeling because we don’t understand what we are feeling.
So as men, as fathers, grandfathers, uncles, leaders in business let’s commit to learning to be present to ourselves, to raise our emotional intelligence, so we can be present to people in our lives.