this story will make you think …
the beauty of being interruptible
Hello dear reader,
As many of you will know, my word for the year (and probably) next year is PRESENT. To be present in each moment, here, not elsewhere, giving my all to the current experience that I am having. As you will also know, if you have been reading for a while, I am not actually very good at this. I am often easily busy, easily in the future, easily planning, sorting, doing stuff. I am not that easily interruptible. But, it is a something that I think is wonderful to be, and I know that when we are, it’s often when the most beautiful moments of life and learning take place. My friend Justin, who is an expert in the art of being present, had an amazing experience recently, where he potentially changed the course of someone’s life because he allowed himself to be interrupted… over to Justin…
Thank you Hannah for inviting me to your blog…
So it might come as a surprise to readers that I open with a question a friend asked me last week: ‘How do you feel about those who have no regard for others and blatantly destroy systems and lifestyles?’
I spend a lot of my time thinking about the injustices in the world and so my initial reaction to my friend was that I feel utter contempt (and stronger) for them, along with my own personal emotions of frustration, sadness and in a recent case a sense of loss too.
But I caught myself going too quickly and added something else to my reply that I try to stay true to. I added, ‘I also like to remind myself to be open to dialogue – there might be an attitude or behaviour that results from a lack of education, or from a major stress or circumstance in their lives’. That doesn’t excuse it, but it does help explain, and sometimes, with the right care, with the right conversations, the person might have the willingness, and desire, to understand their wrongs and change.
Life throws lots of stresses at all of us to varying degrees; people and situations are complicated; the future is unknown. But when we make ourselves ready to interrupt both our time and our instincts, when we take the time to slow down, to look at a situation from the present moment, the positive effects we have may be far beyond what we might imagine.
Hannah refers to an experience I had recently. It’s a story I shared on LinkedIn two months ago.
It was another ordinary day working from home trying to get something closed off quickly. I received a phone call from someone called Sam from an IT support company telling me my computer was infected by a virus. My heart sank and a sense of anger started to swell. I knew full well that this was yet another scam call, one of millions causing distress and pain to vast numbers of people across the world.
To Slam or to be Present?
Right there I knew I had a choice: I could either slam the phone down without a word; I could have expressed my anger; or I could interrupt my day, interrupt my emotions and try to engage for positive effect.
I chose the final option. I listened to Sam for a moment and then decided to show high empathy and encouragement for something better – I told Sam that I understand that life is difficult, etc., and then, I encouraged him to really try to get a different job, a job where he is doing good, a job that will make him feel happier and more fulfilled.
Sam listened and then asked whether I might be able to give him a job! He asked for my advice on what he could do. I imagined he might be good at IT(!); he told me he was a tele-marketer. I explained about recruitment agencies and to search for them and to use the power of LinkedIn. He listened and we talked about being inspired to do a better job – he indicated that I was helping him feel motivated. He asked me what my job was – I explained that what we were doing right now was what I do all the time – helping people move on positively in their careers, etc.
The call ended, my heart thumping half thrilled, half worried – I had told Sam my full name and to look me up on LinkedIn. I was shocked that one of these scamming callers listened to me and seemed open to a new life. In the end people doing bad things are often in a state of desperation – I don’t know Sam’s full story – but the good in people is often not far away even when one is down on one’s luck or hanging out with the wrong crowd. When that good is just below the surface, and with the right support, lives can be changed.
I felt hopeful, hopeful because if I have helped steer and motivate just one person away from an industry that is defrauding billions out of people around the world, then that is a good thing.
So what are the lessons & reflections here?
When we choose the path of being in the present; to interrupt our busy lives for someone else, that is where beautiful moments might be found. It’s not going to be every time; far from it; this was not the first time I had tried my approach. But even one success in a hundred may do so much good.
We will probably never know what happens to Sam, but what we do know is that I had just increased the probability of something far better happening for Sam. Changed his life as some people have imagined? It would be too much to presume; but we can hang on to his words of how I was making him feel more motivated literally there and then as we talked.
Interruptions are those things that take us to somewhere unplanned, right there in the here and now; the present. If we practise it, I know we can do the most unexpected of things, and they can be amazing. If we lift our heads from our screens and look around us, there is opportunity everywhere.
Of course, it doesn’t have to be engaging with criminal behaviour as in my example. Rather, I find it fascinating that nearly every day, we have the same choice: to ignore, or to engage. I remember once I checked into a hotel with a colleague. It was a normal check-in process. Afterwards my colleague asked me if I knew the reception team; because it certainly seemed that way to him given the way I engaged. I replied that, no, it was my first visit to this hotel. I had just made the decision to engage, to recognise them as people, not just someone to serve me in a transactional way. In effect I was interrupting the ‘me’ part of the process; no phone in sight, no thinking about dinner, just present for them.
Being present around others is about really focusing on them – it’s about seeing how you can make a difference to them, and in turn, often to yourself. As I like to say, you never know what you will find out, what new opportunities may arise.
Can we all do this?
Yes, I believe so. Of course the examples above come more naturally to some than others, and yet I firmly believe we all have the ability at our own level of comfort to be more present for others, to interrupt more the ‘me’ of daily life in us all. I know from my own experience, starting in life as super-shy, that this is something you can intentionally practise, and you will feel the changes over time.
When I posted the story of the scam call to LinkedIn, there were no images, no video, just the story. It proved to be one of my most popular posts ever and I was heartened by the comments – really powerful words with some saying they would choose the alternative path next time a scammer called them; others indicating they were inspired by my alternative approach. The reaction seems to tell us is that this stuff matters, that it has power and edge, and we should embrace it. But I stress again, we have a choice to make, and it is an intentional one.
So, if the idea of interrupting the ‘here and now’ of daily life to be present for others appeals to you, if I have inspired you in some way, I encourage you to go for it. What alternative choices could you make today to be present for others; to interrupt your day in some new exciting way? And yes, sometimes it really will be a thrill! For now though, back to Hannah…
So, dear reader, as we head into our days, possibly a very busy week for many of us as we tie up loose ends and get ourselves ready for Christmas, what might allowing yourself to be interrupted and available, to be present, look like for you? We’d love to hear your stories.
Hannah (& Justin) x