I recently completed a Master’s in Public Administration and I spend a lot of my time thinking about government, governance, and the world of politics. One of the things I frequently hear in podcasts is how successful politicians have this ability to focus in on the people they speak with to truly connect to them, make them feel like they are the only person in the world, and earn their trust. Becoming a successful politician requires the ability to connect with others and it really stands out to us when we meet someone who can exceptionally connect with us and make us feel like the center of the world.
I think about this often because it is something I am actually not that good at. I want to be better at connecting with people and engaging with them more deeply and thoroughly. I want to be the kind of person that people think about and remember deep engagement with. The challenge for me is that I am often very distracted, and I don’t always do a great job focusing in on the moment and on the person I am speaking with. Luckily, Thich Nhat Hanh writes about ways of thinking that can help with my troubles in his book The Miracle of Mindfulness.
Hanh writes, “The most important person is always the person you are with, who is right before you, for who knows if you will have dealings with any other person in the future?” This quote is powerful because it reminds me that I don’t know when any given moment will be my last moment. It focuses on the only thing I have, which is the present moment, and reminds me to make that moment meaningful and valuable for myself and those whom I am lucky enough to interact. The quote alone is not going to change my behavior, but it can help me stay focused on the things which matter most, and that piece of mindfulness can help me think about my habits and the triggers that set me up to be focused or distracted.
Hanh continues, “The most important pursuit is making the person standing at your side happy, for that alone is the pursuit of life.” Looking beyond the person in front of you or speaking to you now to see who may be more interesting to talk to ruins your connection with the person in front of you. Thinking only of yourself and approaching another person as a transaction, as if you will only speak with them and give them your attention if they prove themselves worthy of your investment diminishes the quality of your relationships. When you instead treat other people as if they were the most important thing in your life, you can become more connected with them and learn more about yourself and the possibilities of the world. This is what Hanh is describing when he says that making the person with you happy is the pursuit of life. Engaging with the person you are present with does not just look good for you, and it does not just make the other person happy, but it truly increases the value of the present moment and enriches the lives of you and the other person.