The L Word In Strong Relationships

Merriam-Webster defines it as, "To stay somewhere beyond the usual or expected time." It's a consistent behavior of our favorite coworkers, best friends, and (hopefully) members of our family. The word? Linger. It's become a scarce practice with our overloaded schedules. Almost every interaction has become a transaction; we get what we need for the moment and move on. To tarry (another word for linger) would seem to be counterproductive with all the other deadlines and expectations awaiting our full attention.

The most precious gift we can give someone is our time.

It's in those moments we linger, however, that we show the other person they have real value to us, not because of what they can do for us, but because of who they are to us. The most precious gift we can give someone is our time, and spending a few extra seconds with someone is such a simple way to strengthen any relationship. As F.W. Boreham wrote, The most winsome people in the world are the people who make you feel that they are never in a hurry. It's not that we don't value these people in our lives... we've just gotten too busy and take for granted that they know how important they are to us.

In some instances it doesn't even have to be something you say. A few months ago after teaching several effective listening courses, I recognized that when standing and talking to others I often stand at a 45 degree angle to them. I was subconsciously giving them the hint that I needed to exit the conversation as soon as possible. And yes, I sometimes did it intentionally because I needed to hurry on to something else. I am now much more proactive about adjusting my physical stance to let the other person know they have my full attention. It's amazing! I can even tell a difference in conversations with members of my own family.

Some other ways you might try "lingering" to improve your relationships include:

  • Keep your hands free while talking to someone else. An electronic device send the message that you need (or want) to move on to something else.
  • Hold on just a millisecond longer. If it's a handshake, hold it long enough to make eye contact and offer a big smile. If it's a hug (and appropriate), add an extra second or two. In short, make it long enough to be meaningful.
  • Transact your business with a coworker and then switch to asking something about their interests before ending the conversation. Speaking pleasantries to warm up the conversation is okay, but I prefer someone who gets to the point of why they contacted me. How they handle the moment after they have what they need lets me know if I am important to them or not. Lingering to ask a little more about what's going on in my world lets me know I am more than a number or a commodity to someone.
  • Stop nodding your head so quickly in agreement or using quick phrases to move the conversation forward. Nodding in agreement is one thing, but doing it so fast that the other person will be encouraged to hurry up sends the message you want to move on to something else ASAP. If you don't have time to really listen now, tell them, and set up a time when you can effectively talk with them later.

And remember that when you are engaged in lingering it has to be authentic. We've all been patronized by those who seemed to be interested in us, but were just manipulating the moment for their own gain.

How could you "linger" and strengthen one of your relationships today?