The Best Present: Presence
Being Present is the best present of all.
In my etymological search, I’ve learned that “being present’ has its roots in Late Latin inpraesent,”face to face” and c.1200 Medieval Latin presentia, “what is offered or given as a gift”.
Today, more than ever, giving the gift of our wholehearted presence can be the greatest gift of all. To be in the company of a person who is singularly focused on you as demonstrated through their listening, questioning and positive body language is simply… well, deluxe.
Far more frequently when in the company of another, we are pressed for time, multi-focused, absently nodding, maybe even sneaking in an occasional text. Our thoughts may be future focused — Am I ready for tomorrow’s meeting? What was I supposed to bring home? — rather than purposefully present.
Under these circumstances not only do we miss out on what’s being said, we miss out on the nuances that are communicated in the pauses and body language.
Ted Talk-er Julian Treasure opines that we’re loosing the art and skill of listening, and provides the RASA acronym (right) as a guide to being both sender and receiver – a necessary part of Being Present.
And the other equally important part is honouring the silences, rather than quickly filling the space with the noise of empty words.
Ideally, I think, Being Present is best face-to-face. New research shows that among adults aged 50 to 69, frequent in-person contact with friends reduced subsequent depression. Facebook’s good; face is better. Skype is good; skin is better.
The holiday season’s just ahead of us. Maybe Being Present, face to face, with just one friend or a family member will bring us more joy than a waffle iron. Don’t know about you, but I’m willing to give it a try.