It happens everywhere I go — and it does to you too — if you notice (and aren’t doing it yourself) …
Last winter I was at my daughter’s first middle school swim meet, and I was appalled. Not by the contestants, actually I was inspired by their performances, support for each other and more, but that is for another time. I was appalled by the spectators.
Remember, this is a middle school swim meet, so we can assume that everyone there is there because someone they care about is competing. Yet at any given point during this event, at least 15-20% of the crowd wasn’t watching the pool or even talking to the family members with them.
They were looking at their smart phones. (I will admit I looked at my email three times during the three hours, but always between heats.)
If people wanted to play with their phones (by the way, the screens I noticed were all on games), they could have stayed home. One of my daughter’s friends is disappointed when her parents come to the end of practices because they aren’t watching — they are on their phones.
It isn’t just at swim meets, and it isn’t just in Indianapolis.
Look at the tables in any restaurant, and you will see people who have come to eat and be together, and have paid for that chance, not looking at each other at all, but looking at the screens on their phones.
And even when people are talking, they aren’t paying attention. In the name of efficiency, too often, people are making calls at all the wrong times. Seriously, you can have a meaningful business conversation without any notes while boarding your plane, checking your email, or (yes I’ve seen it) using a public restroom?
What is the connection to dialogue?
The connection is deeper than you realize.
You can’t get into dialogue if you are distracted. You won’t get into dialogue if you aren’t (genuinely) interested in what others are doing or have to say. And while I’ve ranted about this situation, I’m not blameless either.
In some situations I am much better at this than others. Put me with a client or in a workshop, and I believe I am much better than I am at home or with my team. This isn’t appropriate, and I’m not proud of it, and I’m guessing I’m not alone. Because of comfort, habit and more, I am (too) often more distracted, less attentive and less effective with those I care about most.
The good news is that we have the skills of dialogue — we just don’t always use them. So we are dealing with a habit issue, not just a skill issue.
Put down your distractors, let go of your agendas, and create dialogue by focusing on the present topic, conversation and other people. Your results will improve and you’ll be glad you did.