Super Habit #23: Focus on People, Not Devices

This seems like common sense, but we all know that many people break this Super Habit on a daily basis. However, learning to put down your smartphone and pay attention to the needs of others will go a long way on your road to success.

The Student Who Wanted a Better Grade

About ten years ago at the end of a term, a student came to my office to appeal a grade. He didn’t like the grade he had earned. He had a D+, and I was being nice. His overall percentage actually added up to something closer to a D-.

The student wanted to know if there was anything he could do to raise his grade, like extra credit, or rewriting an essay, etc. As soon as I started to answer his question, his phone buzzed. Instead of focusing on me, he chose to engage in a two-minute text conversation first. When he returned his attention to me, I simply told him there would be no way for him to improve his grade.

In the past, I have offered some students ways of improving a low grade at the last minute. I like to see students succeed in my class. However, this student’s rude and dismissive behavior led me to giving him the D he deserved.

Nonverbal Communication

In the field of nonverbal communication, the act of “preening” in front of someone who is communicating with you is seen as dismissive. Using electronic devices during a face-to-face conversation communicates that same message. If you turn to your phone or iPad while someone is speaking with you, you have just disrespectfully dismissed their message.

This is not an unforgivable sin, but it says a lot about your character and communication style. I’ll always remember that student’s behavior. I’d be much less likely to work with him in the future. The same goes for business and personal relationships. If I meet with a potential book publisher and I were to continually check my phone during our meeting? That’s off-putting. Try focusing on your phone more than your date on a first date: Think you’ll have a second date? Probably not.

Relationships Are Key to Success

Most people who find success will tell you that building solid relationships with others is one of the most important steps you can make on your journey to success. Here are a few tips on how we might conduct ourselves during one-on-one meetings.

  • Be on time. Don’t let anything, including your text messages, make you late for your appointment.
  • Keep your phone away. Unless you need to share something from a file on your phone with the person you are meeting with, keep your phone off and in your pocket or bag.
  • Smile. Friendliness goes a long way.
  • Make direct eye contact. If you keep your device in your sight, you’ll be much more tempted to break eye contact. Don’t do it. Direct eye contact communicates interest and builds rapport.

I could provide you with more interpersonal communication tips for a one-on-one meeting, but that’s not the gist of this post. The primary point I’m trying to make is simple. Have a little common courtesy and keep your devices aside during personal meetings. Focus on people.

Focus on People, Not Devices

Again, I know this all seems like common sense. However, we witness people breaking this rule on a daily basis. So this is just a friendly reminder. It’s also a Super Habit that will help you in all of your relationships.