Resolution No. 2

February 05, 2019

What does the manner in which we use and display our cell phones communicate about us?

A couple of teenage girls were sitting together on a bench intensely focused on their cellular devices. Exchanging laughs and giggles, through closer observation and some eavesdropping I confirmed they were furiously texting: each other!

Initially amused, I further considered the moment. To be 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 resolving to become better and more aware of the outward message I’m conveying to others with how I use 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 might a message 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 and the call or text will provide me a good reason to excuse myself?”

So, guys phones in the pocket, ladies in the purse.

I like what the Gaines’s, Chip and Joanna, do to encourage mindfulness and connection with each other. At their Waco, TX restaurant, Magnolia Table, they 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 and we wanted this to be an option for our guests at the restaurant as well.”

These days my work usually emanates from a home office. In the past, when the center of my work environment was an office among other offices landline communications was standard. Years ago I adopted a general philosophy: the person or persons who were in my office at the moment were the highest priority. Therefore, that phone was either silenced or if it rang it would go to voice mail. Call forwarding was a safety net for emergencies.

There was an occasion or two where I later faced criticism by a caller for lack of responsiveness. To me the cost was acceptable compromise for attempts to be in the moment.

Aside from meetings, social gatherings, and professional work settings what are other opportunities to demonstrate responsible use of our mobile devices?

· One thought is obvious. A while back at a busy airport terminal I overheard a profanity-laced conversation between a frustrated traveler and either a reservations agent or friend of the traveler. Although I empathized with his aggravated state, a public place in earshot of others, especially children, was inexcusable.
· Emergencies do occur and almost without exception at 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 while in a house of worship, medical office, library, theater, or hospital. Once outside move ten feet away from the building including windows. If possible, refrain from those same conversations on planes, trains, and automobiles.
· Avoid becoming a victim of the cellular crutch. Your phone isn’t a gadget to turn to when you are not sure what to do in uncomfortable situations. If you walk into a new office or a wedding reception and don’t know anyone, reach back for a little internal nerve and try face-to-face engagement. 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. Then respond with substance.

It was more than 40 years ago that 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%: body language. Texting forfeits 93% of the potential of communication!

I would suggest still one more variable of unknown influence: physical presence.

While this year’s 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 phones.

The Seed Sower

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Resolution No. 1