There are three ways we can redevelop our communication habits and demonstrate how much we value our relationships with employees, co-workers, friends and family.
Isn't it ironic that technology is supposed to help us connect better with the world and yet technological gadgets are the one thing that threatens our ability to connect with each other?
Our devices allow us to send and receive information at lightning-fast speed. We receive countless messages daily with the simple swipe of a screen. We crave connections and inclusion, yet our digital habits threaten our ability to make meaningful connections with others. We need real relationships to achieve professional success and personal fulfillment, yet we seek inclusion and information from digital relationships that lack any real value in our lives.
While technology provides 24/7 access to the world, it comes at a cost. We move at hyper speed, failing to take the time necessary to craft messages properly. Our communication skills weaken, and our ability to influence others deteriorates. We seek validity from what's on our screen instead of the relationships that define us. Because we've developed this fear of missing out, we compromise the feelings and perceptions of others by prioritizing our devices over them.
How do we make a change? How do we value those in front of us and foster relationships in a way that everyone benefits? We can start by making mindful changes to our digital habits and using technology merely as the tool it was intended.
There are three ways we can redevelop our communication habits and demonstrate how much we value our relationships with employees, co-workers, friends, and family.
1. Put the phone away
The mere presence of our device has the power to disrupt meaningful connections. It signals to others that your phone takes priority over interacting with them. Brigham Young University studied the effect technology had on relationships and discovered a significant psychological component that jeopardizes our ability to make meaningful connections with people right in front of us. Our attachment to devices lowers our ability to relate to others and foster relationships through traditional forms of communication.
Studies show that when smartphones aren't present, the quality of our conversations improves. Our ability to empathize with others increases when we tune into facial expressions, posture and other nonverbal cues.
Make a change by creating rules for yourself and others at home and in the workplace. Set times of day when digital gadgets are not allowed. Create a no-phone rule in meetings. At home, ban phones and digital devices from the dinner table. Establish distraction-free zones where people can give and get the undivided attention needed to foster strong relationships.
2. Give mindful attention
Consider the last time you were in a serious conversation and the phone rang. It likely killed the conversational momentum. Phone users are typically distracted, having little awareness of those physically present. Even when we don't take a call or respond to a text, the momentary distraction of a ringing phone or chiming alert is enough to divert our eyes and consciousness to something other than the person in front of us. It subconsciously sends a message that there is someone or something more important than the person right there with you.
Make deliberate eye connect during face-to-face conversations. The most important way to make an authentic connection is through eye contact. It helps us sense what others are feeling, despite what their words are saying. Real connections prosper from physical presence, openness, compassion and observation. It is the key to feeling included and valued.
3. Purposefully engage
Personal and professional relationships suffer from overuse of and overexposure to digital addiction. Like parents with their kids, leaders miss the opportunity to engage employees on a meaningful level. Instead of having face-to-face conversations to inquire about projects, tasks, and obstacles, they rely on email, texting and instant messaging. These communication methods fail to share the entire picture, because the nonverbal aspects are missing. Leaders can't sense tone or emotion through digital communications. They may read that an employee is struggling with a project deadline but fail to see the fear and frustration the employee suffers as a result.
Worse still, when the opportunity to connect in person becomes available, leaders too often allow their phone to become a distraction. They take calls mid-conversation, respond to texts and emails or look at their screen's alerts. This sends a message that the phone is more important than the employee. It reflects a lack of interest on the leader's part, which results in a lack of interest on the employee's part. This is how expectations are set, and the workplace culture shifts. If the leader doesn't care enough to give their undivided attention to the employee, then why should the employee care enough to give it to the customer?
Establish a time of day when you walk to employees' desks to chat without your device. Ask about their work, projects, priorities and more. Compliment their achievements and acknowledge their efforts. Be mindful to engage with employees without fear of distraction. Invest your time in their well-being and create authentic relationships that bring meaning to the workplace and other's lives.
Set the example at home and work by changing the way you interact with digital devices. Prioritize real relationships and focus on making authentic connections by giving your undivided attention to every interaction. Habits are hard to break, but it can be done. Start by taking these small steps to shift your priorities, digitally disengage and invest in relationships that matter.