Apps and communication: The missing links in our daily interactions with applications & each other

Do you sit down to a meal with your smartphone either in hand or on the table (or maybe on the couch if you’re having a TV dinner)? Are you always checking your phone when you attend meetings, conferences, or are somewhere you think people can’t see you doing it?

If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, you need to read this. Fast.

Constantly checking your phone is a real anxiety-inducer – not just for you but for the people you are corresponding with in real-time. If you’re speaking to someone and they are on their phone, do you feel like talking to them? Do you think they are listening? Do they even look up and / or respond? Not only is it rude to be checking your phone when someone is communicating with you, but it may give the impression that you are a disorganised, unprofessional, and perhaps even uncaring person.

Now apply this to your family.  Are you always telling your child to get off their phone / tablet / computer? Do family dinners and eating out involve you staring at your phone while your kid is staring at some form of screen themselves? Next time you are at a restaurant, observe how many people, families included, eat while ignoring each other. In-person human interaction is often forgotten while people interact with others via applications.

Don’t get me wrong: I don’t expect you to throw out every piece of tech you own and go without! Apps can be useful tools and vehicles for communication, time management, scheduling, and a host of other habits we need to develop and tasks we need to complete in certain contexts and settings. They have a time and place in our lives, but they shouldn’t be used as an excuse for rudeness.

We’re spoilt for choice when it comes to apps. Each one aims to make our lives easier, to simplify things, to ensure that we are more time efficient. While these goals are all very noble, we still seem to fall short of the mark in terms of achieving them. Why? What happens when we can’t blame the app? Perhaps it’s time to take a long hard look at how we create meaning in our communication…

It all comes down to respect: Few people are  going to respect you if you are not giving them the time, attentiveness, and courtesy you would like to receive. No app is going to replace the social and communication skills you need to develop and apply in daily life, and in your interactions with others. So, next time you are tempted to fish your phone out of your pocket or handbag while you are mid-conversation, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What kind of example am I setting?
  • What kind of precedents am I establishing?
  • Is ignoring this person or being distracted while I speak and listen the social norm and standard I want to enforce and be (rather infamously) known for?

 

It’s well and good to acknowledge all of this, but it’s quite another to put it into practice. And yes, you are going to have to practise until being thoughtful and courteous become habit! Start small and set yourself manageable goals. Here are a few tips to get you on the road to better in-person relationships:

  1.  Put away your phone when you need to concentrate on completing a task. Turn off notifications and sound alerts. You’ll see your productivity and time management improve greatly over time. Your relationships with colleagues, your boss, manager, and stakeholders or clients will improve when they realise that you really do concentrate on what you are doing.
  2.   Plan a couple of hours of screen-free time every day. This is a really good idea if you have trouble sleeping. Turn your screens off an hour before bedtime and spend that time relaxing with a good book, journalling, or planning the old-fashioned way: With a pen and piece of paper! You’ll learn how to go without constantly checking your apps and just enjoy the moment.
  3. Have coffee with a friend and put your phone out of sight (and keep it off the table) the entire time. You’ll be amazed to see how much more you’ll enjoy their company, and you’ll probably get a compliment or two about how nice it was for them to speak to someone who actually listens!
  4. Leave your phone behind or keep it out of sight when you have a meeting. You’ll absorb so much more and will be able to concentrate on important issues.
  5. Turn off on-screen email notifications and sound alerts when you need to get your work done in a specified time frame. Again, you’ll see a significant increase in productivity and you might become known for meeting deadlines on time!

 

When you first start out, you will be tempted reach for the nearest device and distract yourself with things that affect your productivity and compromise your concentration (can you say procrastinator?). Time and practise will eventually make you better at ignoring the distractions, but so will the powerful motivator of developing better relationships and being known as someone who is a good communicator and listener.

Do you know someone who needs to read this? Send them this link or invite them to follow us on the apps they are so fond of (because hey, maybe they’ll get the hint):

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