Technology is a wonderful thing. On our desktops are portals into the sum knowledge of mankind. Have a question? Get an answer. Better yet, we are no longer confined to our desktops as phone-sized devices allow us to carry our wireless connectivity with us wherever we go. Via social media, e-mail and texting, we are instantaneously and forever wired to each other.
Except when we aren't.
How many times have you been with an associate, or perhaps even a close friend, only to have them continually and obsessively check their phone for messages and texts? What has become so urgent that we are no longer able to look the person to whom we are speaking in the eye and give them our full attention?
What is the value of connectivity if we cannot connect with the people directly in front of us?
At the last 2 tradeshows I attended, I witnessed this phenomenon more than once. Holding a conversation with an acquaintance can mean vying for their brain cycles as they process the scrolling 4 in. screen they check and scan for new information as though they were monitoring a personal EKG to assure their continued survival.
“Socially awkward" has taken on a new meaning – we are all thumbs when it comes to personal engagement. I personally believe our wireless devices, social media and other forms of instant communication provide us with an “out", a way of not-engaging on a personal level. It fills those uncomfortable silences and gives us the appearance of being very, very busy, even when the most important issue at the moment may well be the person 3 ft. feet from us.
I was in a meeting with an insurance sales person not long ago when, impulsively, he checked his phone for a text and took another call. There may be any number of good reasons for him having done so. However, we are not dealing with reality here but the interpretation of reality. Should you do this in a meeting with a client, the client's interpretation is likely to map your actions as displaying a total lack of regard for their time or importance. Not good.
Here's a challenge for you: The next time you are with another human being, whether a client or a supplier or, better still, a friend, turn off your phone. Put it away. See if you can spend 10 or 15 min. in total communion. It may not be easy at first; it's hard to go cold turkey. But the most important impression will likely not be your own. It is more likely to be felt by the person with you who will feel attended to, important and totally appreciated.
That's making a real connection
Richard Earls is the Publisher of Travel Research Online, an online travel industry resource dedicated to enhancing the professional lives of travel agents.