Most of my Tech Tuesday posts promote the use of technology. But with this one I want to take a step back and ask you all to evaluate the quality of your interpersonal skills. Are you living your entire life through your tablet? Is your smartphone making you dumb? Have dinner conversations been replaced with at-table-texting? We cannot ignore the fact that technology is becoming a more and more necessary part of life but realize that that means you need to work that much harder to maintain your ability to communicate* effectively when face to face. Below are a few tips on how you can retrain yourself to talk instead of text.
1) Set times during the day when you won’t respond to texts/emails. This takes discipline. But if you reply to texts and emails at all hours, people will begin to believe you are always available. Can you blame them? I can’t. Social norms may not be set by you but your friends’ and coworkers’ expectations of you are. Make sure they align with your needs.
2) Leave the phone in the car when on a date or hanging out with friends. Why not? You’re already with people you want to be with. And if you don’t have kids, what is keeping you attached to your phone? Even if you do have kids, do what my parents used to do: give them the number to the theater or restaurant. That way, if your phone is in the car, they can still reach you.
3) Make “silent” mean silent. When you put your phone on silent at work or the movies or in class, do you still end up looking at it every time it vibrates? That’s because it’s not silenced. Sit your phone on the table and listen to the sound the vibration makes on “silent.” It’s not really silent. And if you’re always picking it up when it vibrates, your mind isn’t really engaged in what’s going on around you. Change your setting sometimes and see how much more effective of a communicator* you are.
4) Don’t use your phone to do everything all the time. The more you “have” to look at your phone, the more likely you are to check your texts messages. So, instead of using your phone as a calendar or a notepad all the time, why not have a hard copy as well? I keep a traditional notebook and calendar in my messenger bag because 1 – I like the classic feel of them and 2 – I don’t always have to rely on my phone to get things accomplished. What if my phone dies and I need to see my calendar or write down a reminder?
5) Make a conscious effort not to text while talking. This goes for in person conversations and while talking on the phone. You cannot focus 100% on communicating* with two people at once. If you’re verbally talking to someone, get through that conversation and then pick up your phone. 1 – It shows them that you respect them and their time. 2 – If you really don’t feel like talking to them, you won’t have to prolong the conversation by saying “Hold on for a second,” or “Can you repeat that?”
6) Take off your headphones. From time to time, stop shutting out everyone around you. You might miss someone life-changing saying “Hello.”
I say all of these things because, though I am naturally a great communicator*, I am a recovering smartphone addict and am working on doing more with my phone less frequently. If this doesn’t apply to you, I’m sure you know someone you can share it with.
*Contrary to popular belief, communication is a two way street: you need to always be strengthening your speaking AND listening skills.