While sat in a local restaurant the other evening my wife and I noticed a family seated at the table beside us. You’ve probably all seen them. The mother and the father weren’t talking to each other, neither were they talking to their two children who must have been about eight and ten years of age. And the children, they weren’t talking to each other either. All four were glued to their respective screens.
They had ordered their food and were waiting. The adults and the older boy sat mainly in silence as they flicked through their screens. Occasionally we would hear a snigger and some other sound as they suppressed their expressions about what they were seeing on the screen before them. The youngest child, a girl sat to one side on her chair facing away from the rest of the family unit. She was watching something on an iPad and was wearing headphones.
The food arrived, and the children were told to put their screens down and eat. The adults however ate while still controlling the mobile phones on the table with one hand. Later, the girl was heard asking for ice cream and the father replied, “yes, yes, just be quiet.” The girl left the table to select ice cream and the brother followed. When they returned, the mother scolded them for leaving the table and the children referred her to their father who had agreed to their request. He looked up from his screen and denied all knowledge of the conversation having taken place and all hell broke loose between the family.
Does this story resonate with you on any level? Do you get so absorbed that your ability to communicate diminishes? Are you so reliant on your smartphone that you can’t leave it alone for five minutes?
Eroding Human Communication
Reliance on smartphones and other technologies could be blamed for slowly eroding humans’ ability to communicate face to face. But isn’t it the responsibility of the person using the technology, after all they’re controlling it, picking it up and using it? Surely, people can decide when and when not to use it. Or are we breeding technology and information addicts?
According to one study, ‘My life has become a major distraction from my cell phone’, by James Roberts and Meredith David, the use of a device or the distraction of a device when in the company of a loved one can result in a serious impact on relationship satisfaction, life satisfaction, and personal well-being.
Secure Great Habits
If you want to secure some great habits for your future communication, here are some tips to enhance your face-to-face communication skills:
- Focus on better communication–Focus your attention on communication and reap the rewards on offer. If you feel the need, take some classes, watch instructional videos, listen to podcasts, just do whatever it takes to enhance your communication skills. This could even mean seeking a mentor or coach.
- Eliminate distractions–If you must have your smartphone with you at all times, make the alerts silent, better still, make the phone silent, put it in airplane mode. Do this when you want to spend quality time with colleagues, family, and friends.
- Give yourself time–Make time to answer messages i.e. allow 5 minutes in every hour and make a habit of it. You never know, you might stretch it to two hours as you get used to having more time to communicate face to face with loved ones.
- Listen and listen again–Listening is key to communication. Develop your ability, but don’t just passively listen. Actively listen to the actual words that are spoken, and another world awaits you. I cannot count the number of clients that have been overwhelmed because someone has taken the time to listen deeply to the words they have uttered.
- Non-Verbal Communication–Listen with your whole body by ensuring that your body language is conducive to the communication you are involved in.
- Pause–When you have listened, there is absolutely nothing wrong in pausing for a few seconds to formulate a response. In fact, it’s quite respectful to take stock of what they have conveyed to you before you respond.
- Know your audience–And I don’t mean just in those moments when you are presenting, I mean know your audience every time you communicate. You wouldn’t communicate with your CEO the same way you would your long-term friend, would you? No, you need to adapt your communication style to your audience.
- Flexibility–Be flexible in your communication. Not everyone receives communication messages the same way and the most successful communicators allow for this with flexibility being key.
- Respect–Take note of the speaker’s name and use it in your response to what they are saying. Let them know that you’re present and listening to them.
And there you have it some heartfelt tips just for you and your future communication. Try them and you’ll open up a whole new world for you and those that surround you, and you’ll positively affect your relationship satisfaction, life satisfaction, and personal well-being.