I smelled cigarette smoke indoors for the first time in a decade on Sunday. It was quite a shock. The bar in the Prague hotel, and I assume the law, allows it. The smokers in my group were very polite and kept their distance. Not sent packing into the cold night, they were grateful for a warm corner, an ashtray and a cold beer.
My first time in Prague was in the mid 80s. Me and my art student pals draped ourselves off the now absent big red stars in second hand new romantic clobber, looking like we had something stuck somewhere uncomfortable. You smoked where you liked then, even on the flight over. How times change.
Smokers mostly get it now; they are generally considerate and empathetic. Much more so than many phone users. Wonderful device as it is, your mobile communications device is the best thing you have in your life for destroying relationships.
In three days with directors on business development skills we get through lots of high level stuff: factors of influence, ways to pitch, emotional intelligence traits, principles of relationship management. But here's the big one if you want to be effective at starting, maintaining and growing your relationships: be present in them.
Forget that the rest of the world uses their phone in meetings (it should never even be on the table); checks texts and emails while standing with you at an event (do you mind if blow smoke in your face?); is verbally incontinent pretty much anywhere you can imagine (people can hear you, you muppet); seems to need to address the blinking red light immediately (emotional incontinence, that's what it is. Are you twelve?); leaves it on normal or loud or vibrate 24/7 (what is the matter with you? too many blue Smarties?)
We humans find it difficult to be present. Unlike other mammals, we wander off all the time, distracted or bored or too clever by half. The most charming and charismatic don't do this though. They choose to stay in the present and attend with body, mind and soul to what's before them.
They really listen. Try it this weekend. Really listen. Let everyone you engage with- wives, husbands, children, parents, friends- finish what they want to say. For some of you, just let them start what they would like to say.
Of course you don't need a phone to be ignorant, but it really helps. Walking over the Charles Bridge, between the stallholders selling all sorts, I was struck by how many of them were on their mobiles rather than engaging with me, a likely customer. And how many tourists were doing the same. Few of them really seemed to be present. I can't believe this is good for sales and I'm sure it felt very different in the 80s.
Two simple tips if you want to be more present, and therefore charming, in the worlds you inhabit. Keep your mobile device out of sight in your business environment at all times and check it less often, finding a private place to check it when you do. And if you really are an inveterate mobile-checking-techno-blinking-red-light-bunny, wear boxing gloves at the weekend.
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about the author
Russell Wardrop is our Chief Executive. If you would like to know more about this subject, drop him an email and we will be in touch.