Skip to main content

Stop for a minute and think back to the last time you were having a conversation with someone in person. Chances are they were also looking at their phone or their laptop, at least periodically. How did that feel?

While at the surface you might say it felt ‘normal’, drop a bit deeper into the question. While you were speaking and your colleague kept glancing away to look at a text, how did it make you feel? Most of us would say ‘I felt disrespected’, or ‘I felt as though what I was saying was unimportant’ to that person. As a leader, is that how you want people to feel when they are speaking with you?

And, what about the efficiency of communication when we are not all completely present for a meeting or a dialog? Is the efficiency and effectiveness of a meeting significantly impaired when everyone at the table is periodically looking at their phone? This kind of multitasking interferes with optimal meeting results in two important ways. First, when our attention is pulled away from the substance of the meeting to look at something on the phone, we miss what is currently being said. Our brain is unable to do two things at once. The result can be seen in the need for clarification after the meeting, or the question that gets asked a second time even though it was answered ten minutes earlier. Second, when there is a topic that requires collaboration and innovation, full attention from everyone is a prerequisite. The strong connections necessary for collaboration and innovation don’t happen when the attention of the team members are split. Failure to connect as a team leads to suboptimal results.

Some simple mindful communication steps can help you communicate more effectively.

1. Put away the phone and close the laptop when you are communicating. And make this a norm for all of your meetings.

2. Take a minute or two to let go of everything that came before this moment when you are about to begin a conversation or a meeting. You can go back to it later but for right now, form the intention to let it go and to be fully present. Sitting quietly or taking a brief walk down a hallway is a good way to prepare.

3. Notice those times when your attention is pulled away by the desire to check your phone or laptop, or by some unrelated topic, and gently bring your attention back to the moment.

Creating an external and internal environment that supports your ability to connect is vital to great communication. Experiment with these simple steps that eliminate some of our daily multitasking habits and see what happens!