I remember vividly when I first got my Apple watch. Every time my wrist buzzed, I would lift it and read the notification. My husband asked me if I was late for something since I repeatedly looked at my watch. I didn’t realize how distracting I was until I was having breakfast with my sister and she kept looking at her watch. Our conversation was disjointed and not memorable.
We had cell phones that buzzed, dinged, and rang prior to the pandemic. There are certain friends that are always reacting to their phone as it generates a notification. This occurred when we had scheduled in-person time for coffee, lunch, or dinner. I know it bugged me back then, but now that we are moving forward after not physically seeing each other in person for over a year, it REALLY bothers me.
It’s almost like we got a reset and could clear the bad behavior of not paying attention to someone directly in front of you. Is the person texting you more important than me sitting in front of you?
Yes, of course, there are exceptions. However, the majority of notifications, e-mails, and calls can be addressed after our meeting.
When I was in Japan, I commonly saw the commuters walking within the subway station move off to the side of the walkway, answer the call to politely say that they will call the person back when they arrived at their location. They were focused on walking to their destination. They were not texting and walking or eating or gabbing on the phone incessantly. I was impressed, and committed to being mindful about people over my cell phone.
It’s important now more than ever to minimize distractions. It’s invaluable to focus on good conversations, connecting, and understanding viewpoints, anxieties, and non-verbal cues.
It’s time to put your phone on silent, put it in your bag, and clearly communicate with each other using eye contact, concentration, and listening. It’s the gift of presence.