Building friendships used to be such a difficult skill for me. I did not grow up with a lot of friends and my parents did not have a lot of friends around either. I naturally gravitated towards people but I always found myself just shy of being the most awkward or weirdest person in the room. That actually helped me to connect with many different people on many levels. However, I never could get as deep as I wanted to with people and found it very challenging to fully commit to be someone’s friend.
It has only been within the last few years have I truly committed my personal time to developing and actively seeking friendships with others. I have learned that even though I possess  a natural gift to network with people, one skill I truly lacked was being “fully present” for someone. Being fully present means having your focus (attention, thoughts and feelings) all fixed on the person when you are with him or her.

Multitasking gets in the way.

Multitasking in the Western culture is seen as productive, a badge of honor, and a worthy skill. However, multitasking robs of really hearing, feeling and connecting with another human being. Friendships and romantic relationships often break down because at least one partner feels that they aren’t being heard or paid attention to the level they desire. Being present with someone is both an active and intentional action but reaps long-lasting, deep rewards in the long run.

Here are three ways to be fully present friend or partner:

  1. Remove Distractions. Good listening starts with putting away the phone, close the door or stop reading your email. Give the person in front of you your full attention and let them know by your body language that you are giving them your full attention. If you are on the phone, allow yourself to be in a place that is free from multiple distractions.
  2. Re-frame What You Heard Them Say. In general, most human beings want to know that they have been heard and that someone is truly listening to them. We long for connection and this is one of the most intimate ways to do so. When the person has finished sharing, rephrase what you heard them say or at the very least re-frame the last few sentences, thoughts or feelings your friend or partner expressed. Or ask questions to clarify, to say more, give an example or explain further. You will be surprised at how connected you both will feel with each other.
  3. Refrain from giving advice…unless asked. Really…I don’t think I need to expound on this! Just don’t. Just listen.

True connections and relationships need to be nurtured and appreciated. And remember,

“We are all wonderful, beautiful wrecks. That’s what connects us – that we are all beautifully imperfect.”

—Emilio Estevez