Notice that? It’s the present (and not the Santa variety). It, together with the rest of the year, may have just passed you by as you rush towards The Next Thing.

It’s so easy to be worrying about “what happens next” rather than appreciating what’s right under your nose. For my part, I know that the more I pile onto my plate, the more likely I am to treat the here-and-now as nothing more than a stepping stone to tomorrow. Deep, huh.

Get out of your head and into the moment

When I coach people to listen more effectively, I use the mantra “get out of your head and into the moment” – which is inspired by my background in improvisation. One of the things improvisers constantly work on is the ability to notice what’s happening in a scene at any one moment, and to work with that. This meant ditching the script in the back of my head - whatever preconceptions I had about where the scene should go - and instead respecting the significance of every moment.

Take this into a broader context, and being “in the moment” can be hard to do, especially in situations where you see your role as a problem-solver. Perhaps you’re coaching someone. Or perhaps you’re trying to get someone’s buy-in to an idea or proposal. Or perhaps you’re trying to resolve a disagreement or concern over something. In all of these situations, it’s very easy to put energy into working out what you’re going to say next, rather than what’s happening in that moment. And while that might help you to feel in control, or the hero of the conversation, you risk leaving the other person feeling a tad unappreciated – triggering disengagement or, worse still, a resistance to listening to you.

In his classic book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey wrote:

“The real beginning of influence comes as others sense you are being influenced by them - when they feel understood by you - that you have listened deeply and sincerely, and that you are open.”

I love that idea. But to get there takes courage and discipline.

So here’s five practical tips for getting out of your head and into the moment:

  1. Look at them while they’re talking. Not just to make eye contact, nor in a freaky stalker-ish way, but to observe facial expressions. Notice their tone, body language and pauses. What is it all telling you?
  2. Be intensely curious. Ask yourself: “What are they really saying? I wonder what they’re thinking?”
  3. As thoughts come to mind, jot them down rather than letting them rattle around in your mind. Trust me, they’ll see it in your eyes when you’ve thought of something you want to say. You may as well be honest with yourself about that.
  4. Occasionally, reflect out loud on the value of the conversation: “I’m finding this to be a really helpful conversation because…”, or “You know, what’s really interesting about what you’re saying is…”
  5. Slow down and enjoy pauses. All of the above is much harder to do if you are sprinting through the conversation as if it’s a 100 metre race. Take a deep breath and create a gentle rhythm of conversation.

And what better time to practise these ideas than in conversations with friends and loved ones over the holiday season?

To all my readers – I wish you a safe and energising break, and may 2016 be rich and rewarding.


As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts – so please leave your comments below. You can also find my other recent posts here, and you're welcome to connect with me here on LinkedIn.  

PS. Thanks to Miguel Moya for the image used in this month's post.