The other evening I caught myself with four (FOUR) active screens arrayed in front of me.
I was “watching” TV.
I had my iPad on the nightstand because I had started to play a game.
Thought of a work item I needed to finish, and popped open my laptop.
Of course my phone was next to me on the bed in case I got a text (alerting me to nuclear war or possibly a school delay).
And then…one of my children came in to tell me something.
First instinct was…”I’m busy!”
Seeing the look of befuddlement cross my child’s face, I snapped out of my mania and started shutting down screens.
In every moment, you tell the world what’s important based on what’s in your immediate field of vision.
Have you ever been buying something in a shop when the phone rings? And the clerk makes you wait while he answers the customer on the phone?
Why are we putting the living, breathing humans around us at arms length in order to stare into a screen?
Why do we feel comfortable sending a LinkedIn request to a stranger, but too shy to approach people at a business networking event?
It’s time to get back to eyeballing each other.
Some ideas for practicing eye contact:
- Take one of your customers out to lunch or coffee. Ask them how they are. (Not how satisfied they are with your customer service.) Then truly listen to their answer.
- Add a conference or two to your calendar. Get outside your office and meet people.
- If a living, breathing person is talking to you, close your laptop and stash your phone. Listen actively.
- Start scheduling video calls instead of emails or phone calls. Body language is a crucial signal.
- Use your real name and photo in your customer support communications.
- Turn off notifications when you’re interacting with people (e.g., at lunch, in a meeting, listening to a pitch, serving a customer).
- Let people know that you noticed them, by offering a specific (and authentic) compliment, referring back to something they said earlier, or remembering details about them the next time you meet.
How many screens do you have open right now?
Featured image via Flickr CC: Kevin Dooley