We’re talking about connecting with one another this week, but for me, I have to go further than connecting. Connecting is like talking to someone; engaging is putting your whole self into the conversation. It’s a level of attention and involvement. Engaging involves an exchange of ideas, experiences and emotions. I give you something; you give me something back.
A spaceship docking to a space station is connecting. Opening the hatches and greeting those inside is engaging. It’s a deeper experience of the connection.
I was connecting to the rain yesterday by observing it from my window. I could go out on my porch and connect to the rain by hearing it, smelling it, and feeling the dampness in the air. But walking out in it and getting soaked — that’s engaging the rain.
You can be connected to someone but not have your self engaged. You can appear to be talking and listening, but your mind is somewhere else. It could be on yourself, on the next thing you want to do, even on the next thing you’re going to say, but if you’re not really listening, you’re not engaged. When Marti asks me “What did I just say?” and I can’t tell her, that’s a good sign I’m not engaged.
Let’s go back to that space docking analogy and think in terms of being locked on to someone. It took you days to get there. You went through innumerable dangers breaking through the atmosphere and getting into orbit near the space station. It took all kinds of technology employing thousands of brilliant people to get you to where you could connect with the pinpoint accuracy required in outer space. And when you locked on and pressurized the channel you will pass through to get on board, and you finally get there and encounter the people on the other side, I think it’s safe to say they’ve got 100% of your attention by then.
That might be a good way to think about our relationships. Lock on; realize what it took to get there; and give that person the appropriate attention.
On our BlogTalkRadio show last night we surprised our friend Robbie Goldman with a phone call to find out what was going on with Dry Bones Denver, his work among homeless teenagers in downtown Denver, Colorado, and we found out about a new project they have going — an upscale coffee bar in Denver managed and staffed by kids from their Dry Bones ministry. They named the shop the Purple Door, and they picked that name because purple is the color of royalty, meaning they treat all kids as royalty with unsurpassable worth; and the door is, of course, a door of opportunity for them to learn skills that will get them off the street.
If we treat everyone we meet, including those we know the best, as royalty with unsurpassable worth, and we consider the conversation we are having with them as a door of opportunity, we will go a long way toward engaging them. That’s when you’re really connecting.
So think about it this way. Dock, lock on, and engage. Every relationship is with royalty; every conversation … a door of opportunity.