Being Present

My lovely wife Lisa loves to observe human behavior around her. Being a scientist, she attempts to draw conclusions based on those observations (and then test those hypotheses and, eventually, write up a lab report). I learn a lot from these observations as she often notices patterns I don’t always see. The other day she pointed out something that she had noticed. She said that, in her experience, the most successful people with whom she had spoken were always completely present.

They weren’t checking emails while listening to a speaker. They weren’t wearing their bluetooth earpiece when they were in the middle of a conversation. In fact, their cellphone was never in evidence, let alone sitting in plain sight on the table. When you spoke with them, they never looked over your shoulder seeking a “better” conversation.

They were always there in the moment, as if what they were doing was the most important thing in the world.

Now, maybe they had “people” to take care of these things for them, but I prefer to believe instead that they have learned something about the petty distractions that modern life has thrown in our path…

…and they’ve rejected them.

This is something I know I struggle with. While I’m pretty good about maintaining my focus when I’m chatting with someone, I do have my Droid phone with me almost always. It’s so easy in a quiet moment to pull it out and just “check the email”. You know, just in case there are any emergencies. Guess what, though. On those extremely rare occasions when something has come up, there wasn’t much I could do until after whatever it was that I was already doing had ended. The only thing that reading the email did for me was make me distracted for the remainder of the event.

I’ve spoken before about keeping our focus on the person we are with. Looking around for someone more important” doesn’t impress anyone. It’s certainly not going to lead to any stronger relationships.

Now, I’m not saying there aren’t emergency situations which justify our having the phone on hand. Lisa and I are expecting our second child at the end of February, so you can imagine that my cell is always charged and at my side. If we’re honest with ourselves, though, 99.99% of the time, we are using these bits of technology to escape the now. Oh, and the whole “looking over the shoulder” thing? I can’t think of a single good reason for that behavior.

So, for me, one of my goals for this year is to be present in every networking situation. Of course, as I’ve mentioned, I’m nowhere near perfect. If you should happen to see me being distracted, call me on it.

After all, isn’t that what friends do for friends?

Photo credit: Mykl Roventine


About Greg Peters

Greg Peters, president and founder of The Reluctant Networker, LLC, is a business networking specialist. He works with trade associations on both the local and national level to create a culture of better connections and greater opportunity. Find out more at or


  1. I've discovered the joy of turning my phone to "silent" during times when it is important not to be interrupted.

    There are almost no events in my life that require an immediate response. Sometimes that's hard to remember, but it's true.

  2. Hi, Spencer

    I agree with you 100%. Maybe, just maybe, that other person is in a business where being immediately available is vital to his success. Personally, I think that's a matter of training the client. Tim Ferris in "The Four-Hour Work Week" talks about how his cell phone is for emergencies only and he has no qualms about disconnecting from anyone who chooses to abuse that privilege.

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