A nice post from Geoffrey Webb here about how technology can get in the way of ordinary human interaction. As much as anything, it’s about how easy it is to become bad mannered with other people, and to use new technologies as an excuse for a simple lack of attentiveness to those around us.
As your mother might have told you, “Listen to someone when they talk to you!”
It’s become grossly apparent to me how much we allow technology to get in the way of connecting with each other. I’m not suggesting that technology is the problem; in fact, I’m an avid and active proponent for social media and the interactive web. It’s not the technology, it’s how we use the technology.
Here are my favourites from Webb’s ten rules:
Close your laptop. If you’re working on your laptop and someone enters the room to talk with you, close your laptop and focus on them. Same thing in a meeting, close that laptop whenever you can. If it needs to remain open for reference or note-taking, try to place it at angle so the screen isn’t a barrier between you and others.
Single task during conference calls. The temptation is huge. Odds are, no one will ever know if you’re checking email, reading a book, or even taking a nap. It’s a character and respect issue. If it’s not that important, then don’t be on the call; if it is that important, then be fully on the call.
Single task with live people. Resist the temptation to check your email or surf the web or update your status while simultaneously carrying on a real-live conversation.
Don’t call after hours. We all have answering machines now so it’s easy to avoid the human contact by simply calling early in the morning or late at night. Have the guts to call during office hours.
Don’t let your email or phone rule you. Ever been having a conversation with someone, their cellphone rings and they just silence it without breaking contact with you. They don’t even check to see who it was. How’s that make you feel? Important? Valued? What about the opposite: You’re meeting someone in their office and the phone rings or an email arrives (bing!), and they interrupt the conversation to answer the phone or check that message. How’s that make you feel? Second-rate? Second-fiddle?
Ban phones from meetings. Like shoes in the Far East, or guns in the Old West, phones should be left at the door in corporate meetings. Some companies collect them in a box. Others charge the individual when it rings in a meeting (or they have to buy dinner/drinks afterward).