The Gift of Quality Time…
Quality Time. It is more than just an often-pursued-but-rarely-achieved buzzword. It sounds great on paper, but it can be a lofty goal for many, since shared space is often mistaken for quality time spent with those we love. If we are wise, we recognize quality time as a gift we can give to others and to ourselves. In Gary Chapman’s 1992 book, “The Five Love Languages,” quality time was recognized as one of five distinct ways that people use to communicate love, caring and commitment to those around them. To those whose primary love language is quality time, giving and receiving undivided attention is the truest expression of affection – and a failure to give or receive it can feel like a lack of love, even if that isn’t the case.
It is not enough to just share space with those who matter to us. It is about making a concerted, focused effort in those shared moments to engage fully in the experience of connecting with others. Quality time is not only important in our romantic relationships – it is a crucial element in connecting with our children, our family members, our friends, and even in our professional relationships. It may even help turn moments with perfect strangers into lasting connections.
To make the most of your quality time with others:
Put your phone, tablet, laptop, remote or game controller down. Turn it off or keep it out of reach so that small, handheld device does not become a huge wedge between you and the person you are spending time with. Whatever is happening on that contraption could not be more precious or valuable than the moment right in front of you.
Make eye contact. It means you are taking the time to be in the moment. The person you are with will know, in that moment, that they are worthy of your full attention.
Listen actively so that you can engage your loved one with meaningful follow-up questions. This is not about offering unsolicited advice, but about being present with the person and letting them know they are heard. Having the space and opportunity to express yourself to someone who cares is a gift in and of itself.
Realize that it does not have to be a long time to be a good time. Short spurts of focused, quality time can be more effective than hours-long periods of time in which you are splitting your attention between your loved one and a task.
Do not try to occupy multiple roles at the same time. It can be difficult to give quality time to your spouse and your child simultaneously. Time spent as a family is quite different than the time spent on a date with your spouse or the experience of taking your child out for an ice cream cone or a trip to the library. Each role is distinct, requires something different of you and provides something different for you. Carve out dedicated time for your loved ones individually whenever possible and watch those relationships flourish.
Spontaneity and making plans both hold their own magic. Taking a spur-of-the-moment opportunity to connect with someone you care about can feel like finding a buried treasure. The unexpectedness can be fun, refreshing and a reminder to your loved one that you are always there for them, even at a moment’s notice. But there is joy in the anticipation of a planned date or a trip that gives you both something to connect on and look forward to. Incorporate a healthy mix of both spontaneous moments and planned ones to make the most of your quality time with others.
Location is everything. While you can spend quality time with a loved one anywhere, consider picking a place where you are not distracted. If being at home is too much of a trigger to wash the dishes, type an email or scroll mindlessly on your phone, a change of scenery could do you some good. Take a walk, go on a bike ride or a hike together, visit a restaurant you both consider a favorite, sit on a park bench and talk, share a cup of tea in the backyard, or take a short drive or a road trip together. Sure, you can connect with those you care about while doing something as simple as running errands or folding laundry, but exclusive, focused time is the best way to honor such a precious commodity.
Sometimes, genuinely connecting with someone on a personal level is the best way to connect in the realm of business, too. Spending time to get to know a person is a way to show them you care about what it important to them. It is seeing past the opportunity to the heart of the individual. It is a way to build trust between you and trust is what it takes to make a business interaction successful. We would all rather give our business to a friend than a stranger. Networking happens when you are busy being friends.
Have you ever chatted with someone you have never met before in such a meaningful way that it felt as if you had known them forever? If so, it is likely because you managed to give the person the gift of your time, if even for just a short while. It is not about the length of the connection, but the genuineness involved and the commitment to truly taking a moment to hear the other person. Imagine what the world would be if more strangers took the time to connect with each other this way.