The second marker of the Modern Gentleman is Engagement.
This isn’t the engagement involving an overpriced ring, a nervous wreck and a bended knee. This is paying attention, listening and being present. It sounds so simple yet it’s so easily overlooked!
We don’t listen to people when they speak to us, we are watching TV, we have our computers on our laps, but what’s the biggest scourge of engagement? The smart phone. Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and blogs (not this one, obviously) pull our heads down and away from the eyes of those most important to us. With free Wi-Fi it’s become common place to spend social time at the local pub heads bowed and immersed in “social networks”.
Fabio Sabatini at Sapienza University of Rome in Italy and Francesco Sarracino at STATEC in Luxembourg found, in their survey of approximately 50 000 Italians, that “The overall effect of [social] networking on individual welfare is significantly negative,”
Simply paying attention to someone is the easiest way to ingratiate yourself to others, to make new friends, how else do you know if you actually like someone and to be honest, “IT’S SIMPLY JUST GOOD FUCKING MANNERS!”
How do we, as gentleman, ensure we are as attentive as simple manners require? That we give people the time of day and conduct ourselves appropriately?
No screens for a day
This is as simple as taking one day out of the week where you endeavour to put your phone down and leave your computer and TV off. Like the sandwich board says “talk to each other”. When you open yourself up to conversations and ask questions, people love talking about themselves, it’s actually amazing where the discussion can take you and where the common ground is. It’s also amazing the alternatives you can come up with instead of sitting in front of the box like a zombie. My girlfriend and I share a bottle of wine and play cards on occasions. It not only keeps us away from our phones, card games have been shown to improve motor skills, hand eye coordination and improve strategic thinking.
Awareness through the practice of meditation allows you to be more attentive, more responsive and more present.
A particularly good meditation for being more “in the moment” is the practice of mental noting.
Dr. Kristen Neff of Self-Compassion.org and Associate Professor of Human Development and Culture Educational Psychology, at the University of Texas, has a guided meditation called Noting Your Emotions (amongst others). She takes you through the practice step by step to bring your awareness to what is occurring at that exact moment, making you more aware and present.
When you make meditation a habit you automatically become more engaged. You are able to concentrate better, which helps you listen attentively. It lengthens your attention span allowing you to remain focused. It reduces stress, so you are not thinking about a hundred other things instead of taking in what the other person is saying. The benefits extend further than just relationships and conversation. Reduction in work stress, decreased blood pressure, better sleep, just to name but a few. Actually there aren’t many reason not to meditate, so what are you waiting for?
This is a simple one to guess, but not so simply done. It is not always easy to be in a great mood, a precursor to kindness. Life, being the inevitable bastard it tends to be, happens. Tires puncher, accidents happen. We as gentleman, however, need to rise above such trivialities and continue to act with tact and sophistication.
The question is how we do this when we have been pulled over by a traffic cop while being late because the geyser burst?
We can start by embracing uncertainty and realise that life is like that, shit happens and that it happens to everyone. People are all fighting battles we know nothing about, so what’s the point of being an asshole when we’re all in this together? Besides who knows what you might gain from the conversation. That person you wanted to bark obscenities at might be just what you needed to cheer up, or they could be a miserable git who has nothing nice to say, but quite frankly that’s their problem and it doesn’t affect you because you are too busy “embracing uncertainty!” BOOM!
When you are inauthentic people can pick up on it, it makes them uncomfortable. Now I’m not saying you should worry, or even care, what people think about you. If you are kind and confident half the battle is won, if they don’t like you after that, honestly, fuck ‘em!
Here are six ways genuine people conduct themselves in a conversation:
- They say what’s on their minds. Tactfully, obviously! We don’t want to be an asshole now do we.
- They look inside for their frame of reference; they don’t count on others to provide it for them.
- They are not concerned if a conversation to goes wrong, they know mistakes happen and are aware that it’s not the end of the world when they do.
- They can take criticism and are not flustered by jibes or nastiness.
- They do not judge and are open to many subjects and topics.
A gentleman pays attention when someone is speaking, actually listens to what they are saying and engages with considered and thoughtful responses. A gentleman knows that his engagement with others directly affects how they engage with him.