It’s the pot calling the kettle black, ‘2020 Edition.’ The other night, my son Drew was in his room watching videos. I asked him to shut down 30 minutes before bedtime and come find me so we could unwind together. Research shows that avoiding screen time before bed helps you rest better, so we try to follow that rule at home. When Drew came to find me later that night, what was I doing? Watching a video. (For the record, I was screening a video that I needed for a leadership training program. But still…) BUSTED!
As parents we are always looking to help our kids develop healthy habits—and to model healthy habits. This article from The Atlantic talks about the impact of parents being digitally distracted, or “technoference.” The perception is that “kids today” are tech-addicted. But are we looking at ourselves?
I reflect on this as a mom, but also in general. Is technology helping me? How do I keep myself in check? And what is the issue, actually? Is it about maintaining self-control like the Stanford marshmallow experiments of the 1960s? Is it about interpersonal connections and not letting the presence of a phone on a table disrupt intimacy in a conversation? Or is it about mindfulness and managing distractions?
Probably all of the above! But phones seem to pose the biggest challenge! Why are they so irresistible?
Staying Focused in the Age of the Smart Phone
In this episode of Brain Games (begin watching at 1:50), we see a group of adults participating in a focus group. The premise is that they are asked to set their phones aside in order to maintain confidentiality for the focus group—and they won’t be compensated for their time if they break the no-phone rule. (Of course, as it turns out, the experiment is about adults’ abilities to resist the urge to grab their phones. There actually is no focus group.) To complicate matters, the participants are left in a room while the facilitators seemingly troubleshoot some technology issues. And what happens? The group gets antsy. Then, the phones start ringing and buzzing. What a temptation! How many of the participants are able to stick to the no-phone rule? 80% of the participants grabbed their phones. Incidentally, as it turns out, a phone ringing is one of the most irresistible noises.
But the thing is that we check our phones even when they don’t ring. We’re rewarded every time we reach for them. Each refresh of the screen provides us with information—an update on the weather, a “like” count on social media, or a text message. These rewards are addicting. No wonder we don’t put the phones down!
How well would you have done in the focus group?
Strategies for Staying Focused & Listening Deeply
At Mendelow Consulting Group, we are always looking for ways to help leaders engage more fully with their staff. One of the most effective strategies to engage with others is to be fully present when listening. It seems so simple, yet so many managers miss out on the chance to connect because they don't shut down their email reminders ("ping") or because they don't let themselves "snooze" their mental to-do lists for enough time to talk with a colleague.
We brainstormed some more listening strategies at last month's "Cliff Notes" Book Club discussion on The Zen of Listening by Rebecca Shafir. The basic premise of the book is that being a good listener is about being mindful, and in large part, about noticing the distractions (both internal and external factors). Here are some steps to follow:
For a short summary of our discussion of The Zen of Listening by Rebecca Shafir, check out the In the Know portal.)
And, who knew that Michael Franks’ 1983 hit, “Don’t touch that phone”, would be so relevant in 2020!
Would love to hear what ideas this topic sparks for you…