You have seen it too. You look around the restaurant and everybody is looking down at their cell phones, despite the fact that there are other human beings at the table (who are probably doing the exact same thing). This is crazy! So many different apps and social media platforms have captured our attention, like mermaids calling sailors to crash upon the rocks. We allow ourselves to get interrupted over and over again. Notification after notification. (You know you can turn those things off, right?) Buzzz….buzzz…. di di di de da da…ping! Di di de di di de de de…..whoit!…..Buzzz…buzz… ping! ping!…….ping! You know what I mean? Of course you do. And we know the root cause and we have found the culprit: It is us!
This behavior undermines our quality of life by infringing on our relationships. Life is short; we need to make sure we spend time on the things that matter most. This cell-phone-at-the-table thing has got to stop! As parents and leaders we need to set better examples.
I read an outstanding book recently entitled Deep Work by Cal Newport. He writes, “Our work culture’s shift toward the shallow (whether you think it’s philosophically good or bad) is exposing a massive economic and personal opportunity for the few who recognize the potential of resisting this trend and prioritizing depth.”
It seems to me that this obsession with our phones can lead us to the shallow end of work and life. We need to be able to turn it off!
In your career: Know when to shut technology down (Or at least mute it). Technology is designed to interrupt us. A huge percentage of what comes across our phones can wait.
When you are with a client: Don’t even give it a little peek! It can wait!
When you are with your boss : Don’t miss the opportunity to get some insight.
When you’re with someone you lead: Don’t miss the opportunity to coach and encourage.
When you are with a co-worker who you want to build a relationship with: Ask questions, listen, and be genuinely interested.
And family meals need a little more family.
Connect with your spouse. Let’s not let our conversation skills get any rustier!
Be there for your kids. In case you haven’t realized it yet, they really grow up fast.
Model the right behaviors for each other. We all know that this is not the way we want to roll.
Show each other how to not be completely rude! Face it, it’s common sense that eye contact is a good thing. Talking across the table to someone who is looking down at their phone is a real drag. We get marginalized. Let’s stop the nutty cycle!
Think about it. Could you be sending a message that you are unaware of? Think about these examples of Blindspot Messaging (Crappy signals you send to others without realizing it, when you are looking at your phone instead of them.) Could you be sending these messages without realizing it?
- “You are not interesting.”
- “Just about anything is more interesting than you.”
- “I would like to be someplace else.”
- “I have poor people skills.”
- “I don’t care what you think because I don’t care about you. I am not open to change.”
(If you realize the above but still have your phone in front of your nose, then you’re just extra rude!)
Communication is interactive and two way. Technology interrupts the communication process and worsens rather than enhances. Let’s not fall into the trap! Whatever conversation you’re in, be fully present. Don’t be a distracted lemming.
Finding Your Lost Shaker of Salt: An Idea Whose Time Has Come
In the fight against a shallow, technology-obsessed life, I have
discovered a weapon: The Salt Shaker Best Practice (I learned this a few years ago from a client named Tom.)
It is simple! Here is how it works: Everybody mutes their ringer and stacks up their phones in the middle of the table. Put a saltshaker on top of the phone stack. For the next hour to ninety minutes, nobody touches his or her phone. If you do, it’s going to cost you $5.00/you have to pick up the check/you lose your phone for an extra hour, etc. (You can choose a penalty based on who’s around the table.)
Benefits of finding your lost shaker of salt:
- Better connection
- Deeper conversation
- Eliminate interruptions
- We send a better message to the people we are dining with: “I care about you and am listening. I am fully present.”
Which of the above is not valuable to us?
I think we need to rally together, folks. We need to rally around this scourge on our relationships. My kids have even busted my chops on this and called me out. “Dad, can you please stop looking at your phone? We are trying to have a nice family dinner.” (Wow!) My 21-year-old son recently said to me, “You Baby Boomers are crazy thinking it’s the Millennials who are addicted to technology!”
This is a simple idea whose time has come! We have all been undermined by the evolving technology that interrupts and steals our attention. Let’s fight back. Let’s find our Lost Shaker of Salt! Who is with me? Please share this post and proclaim in writing that you’re going to give the salt shaker a try! Together we will have a positive impact on our relationships and our futures.
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