Proximity Does Not Equal Presence

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“I don’t own a cell phone or a pager.  I just hang around everyone I know, all the time.  If someone wants to get ahold of me, they just say, “Mitch,” and I say, “What?” and turn my head slightly.”

     –     Mitch Hedberg (1968 – 2005), American iconic stand-up comedian

Mitch was my favorite comedian, if not of all time, certainly of his time, and his admonishment has never been more pertinent than in this time.

For almost a year and a half, proximity has been the topic.  We haven’t had much close contact during that time.  Proximity has been dumbed down to video calls and even more cc’s and bcc’s on even more e-mails.  “It doesn’t matter where people are,” we’ve been told.

Except that it does.

It’s important to remember that proximity does not equal presence.  There are times that just being there counts.  More often than not, though, really being there makes a difference.

Being relentlessly focused on whomever we’re with not only makes it better for them, it makes it exponentially better for us.  We listen better.  We consume more completely.  We’re engaged, and engagement is a key component of presence.

It’s graduation season — and we’ve attended dozens of graduation parties, delivering gifts — “presents” — to those graduates.  The ones where our presence mattered more than our presents were the best use of time.  And being fully present will make a difference in our offices, our homes, and even, God forbid, on our video calls!

 


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