By Kirk McCarley
Two teenage girls were sitting together on a bench intensely focused on their cellular devices. Exchanging laughs and giggles, closer observation and eavesdropping confirmed they were furiously texting each other!
Initially amused, I further considered the moment. For sure there was an element of cuteness and innocence. Conversely, I felt wistful that with the many conveniences offered by modern technology, our ability to look each other in the eye and have a fully communicative conversation has been increasingly compromised.
This year I’m aiming for better awareness of the outward message I’m conveying to others with my phone. When seated at a business meeting or lunch, where’s my device? I hope in my pocket. If it’s on the table, a message might be construed as “I’m expecting someone more significant than you to attempt to reach me shortly,” or, “I hope they call me because I really don’t want to be here with you.”
At their Waco, Texas restaurant, Magnolia Table, Chip and Joanna Gaines have incorporated hanging leather pouches at each table so that guests can store their phones during their visit. Joanna shares, “At our house we keep phones away from the table at mealtimes so we can focus on each other and the conversation around the table, we wanted this to be an option for our guests at the restaurant as well.”
Previously, when the center of my work environment was an office among other offices, landline communications were standard. Then, I had a general philosophy: the person or persons who were in my office at the moment were the highest priority. Therefore, my phone was on silent. If it rang, it would go straight to voicemail. Call forwarding was a safety net for emergencies.
Aside from meetings, social gatherings, and professional work settings, what are some other opportunities to demonstrate responsible uses of our mobile devices?
Here are some examples:
At a busy airport, I overheard a profanity-laced conversation between a frustrated traveler and either a reservations agent, or a friend of the traveler. Although I empathized with his aggravation, the public place within earshot of others, especially children, was inexcusable.
Emergencies do occur, and almost without exception, at the most inopportune times. In that event, consider the ten-foot rule. No one wants to see you nervously pacing or gesturing during your conversation. Step outside when responding to a call when in a house of worship, medical office, library, theater, or hospital. Once outside, move ten feet away from the building, including windows.
Avoid becoming a victim of the cellular crutch. Your phone is not a gadget to turn on when you are unsure of what to do in uncomfortable situations. If you walk into a new environment and don’t know anyone, reach back for a little nerve and engage face to face. Deferring back to your phone as a crutch will keep you from truly connecting with new people.
Finally, when you do miss that call or text, respond in an appropriate and timely manner, and apologize for missing the contact.
More than 40 years ago. Psychology Professor Albert Mehrabian discovered the importance of non-verbal communication. His chief finding was that only 7% of what we communicate consists of the literal content of the message. The use of one’s actual voice, such as tone, intonation, and volume, takes up another 38%. The remaining 55% is body language. Texting forfeits 93% of the potential for communication!
While this year is still young, why not resolve to make 2019 a year for more in- person meals, coffees, or beers with your spouse, kids, friends, and co-workers?
And don’t forget that leather pouch for the cellphones!