A few days ago I was the “MC” of a meeting of about 70 lawyers meeting to hear a professional presentation. Whenever one is a leader, people look to you. They look to you for recognition, for approval, for involvement in them as persons. Oh, you may think not, but as a leader, you have the opportunity to communicate more than another member of the audience or team.
I noticed during my “MC” experience that I felt disengaged from people and focused on the tasks and agenda of the meeting. As a result, I tended not to really see people. I tended to look past them or through them. I did not often smile; I did not say hello but to a few; I did not acknowledge people by name; I did not greet them; I did not walk up to them. I was too busy with tasks to connect with the very people I was there to serve.
The meeting was a technical success, and certainly no one would say I was “rude.” But the quality of the meeting was diminished because I failed in my most important responsibility: to produce a positive impact on the attendees by making each feel accepted, welcomed, and significant.
From this experience I learned that the quality of my life is determined by the quality of the engagement I have with the very next person or group I encounter. The encounter may have its obvious limits, but even if it is a short business interaction, or a chance meeting with a stranger, I can communicate a powerful positive impact by my eye contact, my tone of voice, my smile, my inquiry into something about them, rather than only what can they do for me, and by some indication of respect. Giving even a brief space of undivided attention is perhaps the greatest respect of all.
Every meeting, however casual, is a deposit or withdrawal from the bank of our dignity. We are to honor life. In a radical sense, every meeting is a chance to bring about a birth or an abortion of some spiritual life in both me and the “other.” There are no “zero sum” exchanges in this attitude. Both the “giver” and the “receiver” are enriched by even the most fleeting encounter.
If you have faith that God is a limitless provider, and that your needs are more than adequately met for each day, then you can engage all people, even the draining, difficult ones, with an attitude of “How can serve you in this meeting?”
As for me, writing this, I of course am also teaching myself the lessons of my experience as a “leader” at my professional meeting of this week. My intention today is to consciously bring this question of “How can I serve you by this present encounter?” into conscious application. With time, this practice will become non-conscious and automatic. I believe my life will be much happier and more fulfilling as a result.
(c) FXP 2011