It’s not uncommon in our staff meetings for half the table to be dressed with laptops. I generally never bring a laptop to the meeting. If I do, everyone knows that I have something else to get done and that I won’t really be at the meeting until the screen is closed. They all know that I suspect the same of them as well.
My suspicions proved true when, at a recent meeting, one of our coworkers slid her fingers to the play button on her mac. We heard four seconds of a tune. We laughed. She blushed. She closed her macbook. I will not identify the person but I will say she has strong ties to music, especially of the classical and worship varieties. I thought about paying attention when she blushed and closed her computer. I think about it when I sit and collect images of people talking to each other at Little Black Pearl or Istria or at some random restaurant. I watch them.
When a person pays attention, their bodies tell you. Eyes tracking with the other’s. Faces full of smiles. Sometimes lips spread into a small ‘o’ as they hear what has to be an interesting story. Elbows resting on a table. Backs slouching against chairs. A hand placed on top of someone else’s. Shaking heads. Tears. An elbow placed on a table, a hand pressing a phone to an ear.
It’s bodily exercise, giving someone your attention, your focus.
Giving attention is special. It marks that moment or that exchange as important and valuable. You give something away with attention, something that can’t be traded. Paying attention, as economic as that metaphor is, is something that can’t be bought or sold or bartered. But it carries great value, doesn’t it?
I once heard my wife say something about people wanting to be seen. People want to be seen. People, in good ways, want attention. So give it or pay it or lavish it. If you’re tempted to do two things at once and one of those things involves people, pick the one activity where a person is physically present. Your physical and emotional presence will turn into actual presence. Show up. Be there, where you are, and enjoy giving something away.