Please Stop Multi-Communicating
Let’s be honest. You maintain two separate conversations at the same time more than you realize. You text when you are on virtual calls. You read emails while on the phone. You glance at your phone to see who called when talking with others.
Much like a traffic cop, you are constantly directing messages to pass, stop, or go. This is not your grandmother’s multi-tasking. This is the new normal of budgeting your attention across multiple message streams. It’s a huge problem for developing quality relationships with those who matter.
When you get bored or find the current conversation less relevant, you have a device by your side that lets you slip into another, more interesting interaction in a millisecond. Your attention becomes a resource that you manage purposely, regardless of the feelings of those around you. You refuse to waste your attention on matters you don’t find instantly engaging, so you find another conversation to peak your interest and grab your attention.
Admit it. You are constantly trolling for relevance and making a mess of the conversation you should be engaged in. Others can tell. Your responses are just a bit off. Your answers slightly delayed. Your questions are not quite on the mark.
What does it say to you when your leader is always on the phone when you are presenting to the team? Is it rude, impolite, arrogant, or simply disrespectful? The best guess is you don’t conclude the leader is being highly efficient with their time. Rather, you infer that whatever you’re saying doesn’t matter all that much. Feelings like that submarine the goodwill necessary for relationships to prosper.
Any time you have a digital device near your fingertips, the potential exists for you to reallocate your attention and miss information as a result. Even just waiting for a new message or watching to see who might call takes you away from the conversation at hand. The idea that you can coordinate multiple conversations simultaneously sounds highly efficient, but it is a cancer that eats away at your reputation that relationships matter to you.
Relationships benefit when all parties are fully present and not distracted by alternate conversations. Push the phone away. Turn it off on occasion. Be fully present in each and every conversation. Complete attention may now be the rarest form of sincerity.
Years ago, I attended a multi-day workshop hosted by Senn Delaney. They taught us the lesson, Be Here Now, and it has always stuck with me. One potential downside to being fully present during group meetings and 1:1s is that you appear less busy than everyone else. While you are trying to be fully present and others are playing the game of, "Look how busy I am", you can run the risk of looking like you don't have enough "work on your plate." It sounds silly, but I see this impression management game being played all the time. Has anyone else experienced this?
I feel like I've struggled with this lately--it's hard to stay locked in when you're on back-to-back meetings some days. This is a good reminder.