- Thoughts for inspired living

December 10, 2008

Levels of Engagement

Filed under: John Morgan's Blog — John Morgan @ 9:03 am

It seems accurate to me that we engage others on 3 levels. I’ve labeled them as:

  1. Purpose
  2. No Purpose
  3. Purposeful

The Purpose level is pretty straight forward. We have an agenda in mind before engaging with this person. “The reason I’m calling” or “The reason I dropped by” are the overt signs of an engagement that has a purpose.

No Purpose is calling, visiting or writing a friend or family member with no agenda in mind, other than just to touch base. This is the mainstay of engagement that keeps cell phone companies and email providers in business.

Purposeful engagement rarely happens and it is the most powerful of the three. Purposeful engagement has no agenda and takes you deeper than a social hook-up.

What is purposeful engagement?

It’s the ability to interact with another where you reach past the words and touch each other in a common space. It’s as though you both entered a sphere where your words can’t be heard and there is a melding of spirits. Lots of communication happens here but oftentimes it can’t be articulated in words.

How do I get me some of that?

The same way my friend, Ned got to Carnegie Hall – Practice!

Purposeful engagement can happen within the confines of the other two. It’s just a case of remembering to be purposeful.

You can start being purposeful when you notice that you have an agenda for the interaction and just let it go. At first, this seems like working without a net. It’s scary and unfamiliar. There are many natural pregnant pauses in the interaction which can make you uncomfortable. Let them be. This is the space that gives the participants the opportunity to breathe each other without having to fill it up with the words of Purpose or No Purpose.

Reminds me of a story . . .

The first time I did this was by accident. It was some 20 years ago and I was pitching an employee communications program to the owner of a propane gas company. I did all the usual rapport building one would do and began my presentation which had a purpose. There was a lot of back and forth, along with many questions about the content and expected results of the program. It was all pretty routine until he asked me this question: How will I know I’ve enhanced my employees’ communication skills?

I had a ready-made answer for him but for some reason I didn’t bring it out. I just let the question hang in the air for what seemed like an eternity. It may have been no longer than 10 to 15 seconds but in a setting like this, that’s a long time for silence. I just sat quietly and then this question popped out of my mouth: “Why do you think your employees hate you?”

His eyes widened, he sat up straighter, and he looked at me as though I had visited his soul. He asked me, “How do you know that?” I don’t remember exactly what I said but it was on the lines of “I just had a hunch.”

This piece of information may have never surfaced unless the interaction got purposeful. The good news for both of us was that we got what we wanted. He learned to communicate versus hallucinate, and his employees learned some new, fun and useful stuff. Me, I got paid, and in the bargain I got a bigger payoff than money can buy – a sense of purposefulness.

Take the time to throw in the clutch once in a while and shift into a purposeful gear. This journey will take you into an unfamiliar, unmined territory that’s loaded with precious ores that can’t be experienced by staying on purpose.

All the best,


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