The One Thing More Important Than “Quality Time”

The One Thing More Important Than “Quality Time”


It was a rainy day, I was already feeling a bit stressed out, and I’d been rushing around. I felt bad telling my friend Jo that our lunch date would probably result in indigestion.

“I only have 45 minutes—but that’s loads of time for a power lunch, right?” I asked, smiling.

“Totally!” she replied as she hugged me.

So we ordered our tomato, basil, and mozzarella sandwiches quickly and dove straight into a shared bag of salt and vinegar chips. We spoke about the usual—work, travel, our husbands, what the heck is going on with The Handmaid’s Tale. And 45 minutes later—on the dot—I grabbed my umbrella and kissed her goodbye on the cheek.

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Two weeks later, in a group email to a handful of friends, she told us she was getting divorced and was moving out of her marital home within the month. She didn’t need anything; she just wanted us to know.

I was shocked. Why didn’t Jo tell me at the café that day? Didn’t she feel like she could trust me? I felt a bit confused (and hurt—if I’m honest… I’m a life coach. People normally come to me with this stuff).

Then I realized: I didn’t give her the chance.

You can’t open up about the biggest struggle in your life in 45 minutes.

We always talk about quality time, don’t we? But in a go-go-go world, is quality really enough? No matter how focused and present we are, doesn’t volume have to come into play somewhere?

I noticed the same thing when visiting my sister recently in Europe. We see each other once every year or two, and it’s always around 3-4 days in that I begin to properly open up. It’s not on the first day that I blurt out how low I’ve been feeling, my fears of being taken advantage of by fake friends, or that I’m concerned about my slightly too-high level of alcohol consumption.

It takes time to get there.

I spoke to a client of mine earlier this year who was worried that her eight-year-old son had stopped communicating with her with his regular openness. I asked if anything had changed recently. After thinking about it, she said the only shift was that he was being picked up from school by a babysitter because she was swamped with work projects.

Normally, their unhurried, daily stroll home would take 25 minutes or sometimes longer when they stopped for hot chocolate or ice cream—and this was when they talked one-on-one. She was miffed that over dinner with his dad, the conversation didn’t flow the same way.

Without me saying a word, she decided to pick him up that day, and the next. On the second day, he asked to stop for a drink. She was patient and did nothing but listen. Turns out, two boys at school were making fun of his glasses and one had actually bit him. He was upset and scared.

She immediately took action, and pretty soon it was resolved.

Hey—not every parent can pick up their kid from school (I had a single mum—I get it). Not every catch-up with a friend can be a two-hour-deep, meaningful discussion. Not every dinner with your spouse or family can be unrushed, phones-off and focused.

But is there someone in your life right now who could use some quantity time with you?

To have your full, calm attention? Just close your eyes and think for a few moments—does anyone come to mind? Often our intuition guides us when we allow it in. As I shared recently, it’s not all about being productive: People matter. Because at the end of our days here on earth, it’s the one thing that we care about the most.

Once I thought about it, I realized that Jo asked me for lunch kinda out of the blue—we’d seen each other in a group setting just a few days before. I didn’t get the hint! I was immersed in my own stuff. She’d wanted to confide in me, but there was no opportunity to do so. I called her to say sorry, and we scheduled a non-power lunch. A lunch where we can actually taste our food, sip our Diet Cokes, and linger longer.

Our deepest, most meaningful relationships in our life happen over time.

In quiet moments. Not necessarily at chic soirees or busy brunches. Closeness forms in the quiet spaces where we just… coexist. Sometimes in silence or doing nothing special at all, like watching TV. Being together on its own is meaningful.

The best investment of your life may be in the form of some real, undivided attention. Who could use some of yours right now—could you ask someone you care about? And don’t be afraid to ask for it when you need it too. Hints (evidently) don’t work. A simple, “Hey—can we spend some time together this week? I could really use it at the moment,” will do. And don’t settle for 45 minutes.

Then see what happens. My guess? You’ll be relieved you did.

Susie Moore is Greatist’s life coach columnist and a confidence coach in New York City. Sign up for free weekly wellness tips on her website and check back every Tuesday for her latest No Regrets column!

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