Be Where You Are
Millennials get a lot of grief about how much time they spend on their phones. I hear people say, "They never put their phones down!" or "I bet she couldn't live a day without her phone" or “He doesn’t even know how to communicate in person.” But in truth I see people of all ages every day who belittle others because of bad phone habits.
A few years ago I got up before daylight, and spent hours traveling by plane to go across the country for the sole purpose of a one-hour meeting with some leaders for whom I have huge respect. During the meeting, there were several occasions when each of those leaders picked up their phone to read or type. At the same time, they glanced up at me on occasion as I was talking, said “uh huh," then continued to fumble around with their phone. I'm not a touchy-feely type of guy, but on that day I felt devalued. It seemed like this meeting was the last place they wanted to be. I walked away from that meeting determining to never do that to anyone.
Here are a few habits I appreciate in others and try to put to practice...
When you start a meeting, turn your ringer off and move your phone away from you. If the screen comes to life when you get a text--then put the phone upside down so you won't see it. If it is likely to vibrate, then put it somewhere it can't be felt or heard.
If your phone does vibrate during the meeting and your guest says, "Go ahead and take that if you need to" -- reach down and silence it without even looking. This communicates to your guest that their time is valuable.
Don't buy into the "what if there is an emergency?" line. Rarely does that happen. It's not a good excuse for having to look at your phone multiple times through every meeting.
If you know you will need to be reached during the meeting, let your guest know: "My wife is at the doctor’s office and may need to reach me, so I apologize in advance that I'll be taking her call when it comes." That tells your guest this is an exception--you wouldn't normally do this.
If you are in a meeting with multiple people--follow the same rules. Don't convince yourself that your participation isn't needed right now so you can disengage and respond to texts or play your next turn in Words With Friends. We fool ourselves into thinking we can multitask, or that our disengagement won't be noticed for a few minutes. Not true.
I'm not saying every time you use your phone you are devaluing others. I'm a heavy iPhone user. Your phone doesn't need to be out of sight every time you interact with another human. There are times when I'm sitting around with 5 or 6 friends or family members and every one of us has a phone out. That's part of the 21st century. Sometimes it can actually enhance the conversation and social interaction. But there are times when you have limited interaction with others when you should be ALL there.
It's about valuing people. And sometimes that means we are looking in their eyes and being fully engaged so we can really listen to their story and hear their heart.
Excerpted from chapter two in Fairness is Overrated.