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Insulting Your Colleagues Without Saying a Word?

You'll be surprised how your teammates interpret your actions.

People looking at their cell phones during a meeting


All of our connectedness is making us disconnected: That’s the paradox of life in the smart phone era. You can now be so connected to things that are far away that you miss the opportunity to be truly connected to the people right beside you.

This is especially damaging in a team situation. When was the last time you sat in a meeting quietly checking your email while the conversation continued on around you?

One of the major causes is that your brain can process information much more quickly than someone can speak it. That leaves excess capacity that you might fill with a quick check of email. While it’s physically possible to take in more information than you’re getting from the meeting, it is a dangerous mistake to fill that capacity by doing something that will distract you from the conversation at hand.

If you want to know more about this, read my feature about how true listening requires not only the ears, but the eyes and the heart. Check it out here.

How people interpret it when you read your phone during meetings

You probably think that a quick sneak of a few emails is innocent enough. Who gets hurt? But you’re wrong; very wrong. Here are a few of the very negative things people assume when you check email instead of engaging fully in the conversation.

I’m not interested in what you’re saying

I’m more important than you

I don’t have anything to contribute to the conversation

I can’t wait to get away from this nonsense

I’m so busy but I didn’t have the courtesy to reschedule

You’re not a priority for me

Now, reread this list. Would you ever, EVER say something so rude, hurtful, condescending, or personally embarrassing as any of the things on this list? Probably not. So remember these the next time you think looking at your phone during meetings is harmless.

But how do you deal with it?

First, you really must deal with it. These tactics will reduce your distraction.

Step 1: Turn off the email and text alerts on your phone when in meetings. Use silent mode instead. Noooo…vibration mode is NOT good enough. It’s really annoying to listen to people’s phones jiggle across a board room table.

Step 2. If your phone has a visual alert to a new message, flip it over on the table. It is far too strong a temptation to ignore a message once you know it has arrived. Don’t set yourself up for failure.

Step 3. Work toward leaving the phone at your desk when you are meeting with other people.

Step 4. Use silly putty to diffuse some of your excess energy. It sounds crazy, but it works wonders.

Use these techniques. Break your bad meeting habits. People will notice.

More from Liane Davey Ph.D.
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