Summer is an excellent time to nurture your relationships with others. Why? During the summer months the pace of life just seems to slow down a bit. People take vacations (often with others) and they spend more time outdoors away from the TV and other electronic distractions.
In order to really connect with people, it's important to give them the most precious gift you can give, the gift of your time and attention.
I was recently on a coffee date with someone I had just met. She was interested in "picking my brain" about my work and while I normally don't have time for random brain-picking, I agreed to meet her.
As we settled in to our seats and started talking, her cell phone rang. She quickly looked at the number and said, "I'm so sorry, but do you mind?" I didn't really mind -- the first time.
But then the phone continued to beep, ding, ring, ping and make all other sorts of noises, each time calling her attention away from our conversation and onto the phone.
We never really got to have an in-depth conversation because of the constant interruptions.
While she was on her third call, I picked up my phone and checked it as well. When she finally emerged with a perfunctory "I'm so sorry," for the tenth time, I told her that unfortunately, I had gotten a call as well and I needed to cut our meeting short and get home to take care of some things.
If only that were the end of the story.
A few days later I got an email from the woman which basically said that she was "disappointed by our meeting." That I had "agreed to help her," and then I had rather "matter-of-factly cut our meeting short." She ended with, "I thought it was very rude of you to take my time if you weren't going to help me."
Where do I even begin with this?
In my head, I crafted a perfectly snarky response to send. But then, I thought the better of it and instead responded with this:
"I'm sorry you were disappointed with our meeting, but I found it very distracting that you had to take so many calls and answer so many texts. Clearly the meeting didn't go the way either of us had planned. Best of luck with your future endeavors."
This is a very long way of saying that if you want to connect, disconnect first.
I am not bashing social media. I have actually been able to connect with lots of people through Facebook and Twitter, etc. It's a nice way to keep up with friends that live far away, or to meet new people who share the same interests. But as much as I enjoy tweeting, posting and the like, nothing compares to actual face-to-face time with others.
If you do get a chance to slow down a little bit this summer and spend some time with others in a more relaxed way (and I certainly hope you do) may I suggest that you spend that time giving the people you are with your full attention?
One of the saddest things I've ever seen happened at a baseball game a few summers ago. Sitting a few rows over from me was a man with his young son. The father spent the entire game on his cell phone. When one of the players on the home team hit a home run, the boy was jumping up and down begging his father to watch the replay on the big screen.
Eventually, the boy gave up and sat down. I couldn't tell if he was crying or not, but he sat with his arms crossed and his head down for the remainder of the game.
What a missed opportunity for this man to create a fond memory with his son while enjoying some quality time together.
Don't let those opportunities pass you by. Unplug to unwind; tune out to tune in; and disconnect to connect. Quality time with the people in your life is important, and there is no app for that.