I am the classic introvert. I can ride or drive for hours without saying a word except, “Do you need to stop?” It’s not that I don’t like people. But I get lost in my thoughts and even can feel interrupted if you talk to me.
I have improved some, but sometimes I have to purposefully interact with others. It just doesn’t come natural. God, with his sense of humor and, I expect, out of His loving desire to help me grow, first gave me an expressive wife, then years later, a son who wakes up talking until the moment his eyes close with sleep at night.
Being with. A simple phrase, but how well are we at “being with” other people? It’s a lot more than simply talking to them, acknowledging them, or even tolerating them.
Here are three ways we can “be with” someone well:
- Fully present – Where is your mind when you are with another person? How often are you thinking about something from your past, either recent or distant? If you aren’t thinking about something from the day before or years past when you are with someone, you probably are thinking, or worrying, about what is going to happen in the future. Both our past and future thoughts can rob us from being fully present with the person we are with in the moment. If you are like me, being fully present with someone takes intentional effort.
- Respect – In order to be fully present with someone, we need first to respect them. If we don’t respect them, we won’t put in the effort.
- Value – It boils down to whether we place value on another person’s life. Many of our relational challenges stem from our basic lack of value we place on another person. This is true for family, friends, or for sure strangers.
Four areas I work on “being with” others well:
- As a husband – After almost 29 years of marriage, Danielle can usually tell if I am fully present with her as I can with her. Many marriage conflicts can be avoided simply by practicing “being with” each other. A friend of ours shared a simple and profound thing they have been doing lately. Ready for it? They stopped turning on the TV at night and talked to each other. Whoa!
- As a father – I have shared before how my son will often make sure that I am looking at him when he wants to show me something. It’s sad how technology like smart phones has created more disconnect from our children. If we want our children to listen to us, maybe they will more if we put aside our distractions and give them what we ask of them when they are little—”full-body listening”.
- As a friend – Sometimes our friends just need for us to “be with” them. They don’t need advice or to hear our story that is somehow related to what is going on with them. Yes, it involves listening, but it’s more than that.
- As a stranger – It saddens me as I watch people lose the ability to interact with each other with decency. Maybe throughout history this has been cyclical. Regardless, it is severally lacking today. In order to “be with” a stranger well is to be okay with someone who is different than you. You don’t forfeit your worldview when you show respect and value to a person with a different one.
Simple ways you can work on “being with” others well today:
- Take a few minutes and listen by putting aside any distraction and looking into a stranger or friend’s eyes as they talk to you.
- Follow my friend’s example and don’t turn on the TV tonight, or your computer, or your smart phone…and spend 30 minutes just talking to your spouse.
- If you have children at home, set aside time today before they go to bed to do something they want to do. I know, that might be near impossible if they are a teenager, but at least make an attempt.
What is another way you would add to that list?
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