Critical Conversations and People Who Text, Type, or Check Messages

Modern technology devastates the art of conversation. People who continue to text, type, or check their messages won’t focus on critical conversations or hear the message you’re trying to convey.

The ease with which people can stay connected through cell phones, pagers, and computers can be devastating to anyone trying to carry on a critical conversation. Whether you’re on a phone call and hear typing in the background, or someone starts looking at his phone habitually during a conversation (yes, this does happen!), try to stop the behavior then and there.

If someone is doing something else, he isn’t focusing on the conversation. Sure, someone may be checking the clock or seeing whether the phone call that was on vibrate was from his kid’s school, but clocks and calls don’t need to be checked every minute.

It might seem harsh, but if someone is texting, typing, or checking his phone during a critical conversation, have a frank discussion. Ask what’s going on. A lighthearted but direct, “John, you keep looking at your phone. Do you need to be somewhere else?” will work just fine.

Offer to be realistic about the expectations and timing of the meeting. For example, you may ask, “I see you are getting a number of calls. Is this time good for our conversation, or should we find a time that works better for your schedule when we can both put down our phones and talk?”

The response to this behavior is really not that much different if the critical conversation happens in a one-on-one setting.

If someone’s phone keeps vibrating while you’re having the discussion, simply say, “I know that we’re all busy, but the phone vibrating on the desk is making it hard for me to focus on our conversation. Is a better time for us to have the conversation later today when you can leave your phone at your desk?”

As with so many disruptive behaviors, saying what’s happening, what you’re feeling, and a possible alternative is often the best bet to keep a critical conversation on track.

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