This is me with my son last year in his canoe (I know, my talents abound). As we were paddling toward a log floating along the river, he said, “Mom, you wanna just put our paddles down and float?” For a split second, I didn’t know how to answer.
Why wouldn’t I want to just float? And, why hadn’t I thought of that? But, wait a second, I thought we were going to look at the log? We aren’t going to look at the log?!?! After the panic subsided, I realized he was saying Let’s just stop working and be.
So, we talked and laughed and wondered out loud about things. We didn’t talk about anything important. For small bits of time, we didn’t even talk at all. We looked at stuff, we marveled at stuff. We just floated. When we made it back to the dock, I was so thankful he had thought to just float.
Later, it made me think of the clients I’ve had who had a hard time ‘just floating’ with other people. You mean, have meaningless conversation?, they would say with a most perplexed look on their face. The thought of a comfortable silence during a relaxed conversation made their heart beat fast. These are the folks who make a break for the bathroom or the lobby when there is a break during a meeting. They are the ones who have their nose to their iPhone (as if they are doing anything but flipping through their email or playing Angry Birds) until the meeting starts.
There are such pressures in our world today, it’s almost as if we are conditioned to be that way. Before texting and emailing, people used to sit in a room – together, in the same space – to make plans for parties, trips or even business deals. Before Facebook, people used to physically attend class reunions and make plans to visit old friends in their homes. Before webinars and online schools, people used to register and attend classes at a local institution. In other words, people used to “be” together.
Seems that we have so many ways to get things done in the privacy of our own company, we don’t get much practice being an “in real life” person. Here is what I suggest to bring you back to reality the next time you find yourself feeling fidgety (fidgety makes you look nervous and that’s not good for biz):
- Sit and do nothing else. Don’t stare at your Blackberry, don’t make a fake list of things to do, don’t jiggle your leg, don’t act like your forgot something at your desk, just sit. Use good posture and make sure there is a pleasant expression on your face and I bet someone will strike up a conversation with you. If not, don’t panic, just sit.
- Look up. Literally. Having your head raised implies authority and security. Plus, you may see something that could be a conversation starter with the person sitting next to you…a piece of art, something going on outside the window, someone’s daytimer or new techie gadget.
- Be inquisitive. In other words, get over yourself. No one really cares if you are uncomfortable. Didn’t you hear that Dave from PR, who is at the end of the table, went skydiving for the first time recently? Ask him about it. However, don’t start with “I heard…” You don’t want to be perceived as a gossip. Say it like it is. “Dave, Rick told me you went skydiving. Tell me about it.”
So, be still, open your eyes, think about other people and just float. I know you can do it.