Putting your phone on the table at a meal sends the wrong message whether you are dining with someone you are looking to connect or network with, or when you are with your spouse or kids. It is the equivalent of telling whoever you are with that the people who text, email or call you are potentially and likely more important than they are. If not, why would you leave open the possibility of having your phone interrupt the conversation and meal?
And yes, I acknowledge that phones and other devices have most of us hooked. We all are addicts. You know the feeling or thought: “Yes, I just checked for new emails and texts two minutes ago, but I may have missed one…I just can’t help myself.”
It really is all of us just filling any empty time by checking our phones or other devices. In the past we would have had to do things such as think, daydream, or stare out of the car window. Now, I have a child who is a teen and barely knows directions because his face is buried in his phone anytime he is in a car. Observing teens and their friends leads to the conclusion that they do not know how to enjoy a moment of quiet.
I have read what others think we should do. Don’t bring your phone into a business meeting. Turn off your phone at night. Makes rules about its use at the dinner table. Don’t check work email after a certain time. Great ideas, but hard to actually do.
That is why I am trying to follow my new, self-instituted rule of not placing my phone on the table when I am dining with someone. It may seem like a small step, but you have to start somewhere. And as a big believer in paying attention to those you are dining with, it definitely makes sense.
If any of you have ideas or rules that work and result in better face to face communication in your offices or homes, I would like to hear about them.