No toys at the table!

Answer this question: What’s more important than the person sitting in front of you, walking beside you, sharing a meal with you, or sharing your bed? If actions speak louder than words, your phone is more important.

If you’re like the average American, the first thing you do when you sit down at a meal or a meeting is put your phone on the table. You walk down the street and look down at your phone. Bumping into people or objects doesn’t phase you. This is FOMO (fear of missing out). It’s technology addiction, and it has a negative impact on our ability to communicate, sleep well, concentrate, and really, really listen to the people around us.

We have a rule at our house. “No toys at the table.” That started when the kids were little, and they brought their stuffies to the table—the ones they’d dragged all over the floor … or worse. Now, the rule more often applies to digital toys. We’ve had friends, neighbors, and family come for a meal and put their phones on the table. You can guess what we tell them.

It’s time for a digital detox. Unless you’re a doctor-on-call, an emergency room physician, a firefighter, or an EMT, it can wait. And the holidays are the perfect time to put your damn phone away and concentrate on the people right in front of you.

Of course, putting your phone down is only half the battle. The next step is getting everyone around you to do the same.

Learn what you can do with phone offenders and how to create new norms, in this well-researched HBR article by Joseph Grenny and Kelly Andrews. Here’s a snippet:

How to Get Someone to Put Away Their Phone and Actually Listen

No, it’s not just you. If you’ve ever doubted that you had your boss’s full attention while her laptop is open in front of her, stop doubting. In spite of her protests that “I’m listening, go ahead…,” she wasn’t. Decades ago, research settled the question of whether you and I can do two things at once. We can’t. But emerging research shows that even the simple presence of a cell phone — much less its glowing screen and constant beeps — interrupts our ability to connect.

The problem is that manners haven’t caught up with technology. In one online survey, my colleagues and I found that nearly 9 out of 10 people say that at least once a week, their friends or family stop paying attention to them in favor of something happening on their digital devices. And 1 in 4 say these interruptions have caused a serious rift with a friend or family member.

So, what do you do when faced with these interruptions? According to another VitalSmarts survey, not much. Only 1 in 10 people speak up to the offender, while the vast majority remain silent by either ignoring the behavior (37%), giving dirty looks or showing disapproval in other nonverbal ways (26%), or simply walking away (14%).

Too many of us are waiting for social norms to naturally evolve and catch up with a raft of novel social situations we face. But they won’t. Norms develop when a critical mass of people begin to confront those who violate them.

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