Be here and now in the here and now.

Our relationships are in danger. With our colleagues, best friends, kids, significant others, bosses, and team members. All because we can no longer not multitask. And the people we talk to every day – whether at work or at home – know it.

Multitasking is a myth. We’re talking here about multitasking in the sense that the more we can do at once, the more effective we’ll be. Unfortunately for our popular belief, brain research shows the opposite to be true. That means you’re not as good at your job, you’re not as good of a friend, or a mom or dad.

So, what now?

Stop, look, and listen. We teach that eye communication is the #1 behavioral skill (for face-to-face interactions). It’s the make-or-break connection that you have with your listeners. And we break that connection all the time. Chief culprit: the Blackberry, iPhone, laptop, iPad, and the gazillion apps running on them. Check out how Jerry Seinfeld describes this on the Tonight Show (that is, the new/old Tonight Show with Conan):

This happens everywhere. All the time. To all of us. I feel most guilty when I do it at home. My son Joseph thinks I am completely incapable of hearing him unless I turn toward him and look at him smack in the middle of his eyes.

Here’s how it plays out: using a sweet, angelic, 3.5 year-old “inside voice,” he calls, “Mommy…” to which I answer, “Yes, Joseph.” Mind you I’m glancing at email or chopping veggies or trying to keep the little one from writing on the walls in permanent ink. Whatever it is, I’m not looking at him. So he starts again, this time louder. “Mommy!” I answer (still calm and patient at this point), “Yes, Joseph, I’m listening.” Nope, not good enough because I’m not still looking at him. Then, the crescendo. A series of louder and quicker (definitely “outside voice” at this point) “Mommys” until they physically travel up my neck and start pounding on the back of my eyeballs. Finally, (after taking a deep breath), I turn and look, “Yes Joseph, I’m listening.” He picks right back up with that sweet angelic voice asking if the Incredible Hulk is a good guy or a bad guy.

The situation is only getting worse. Distractions and new devices are so intrusive that Blackberrys are about as close to a science fiction-like bodily appendage that we can get. But how do you come across to those around you when you’re Twittering, texting, and emailing someone else that has nothing to do with the conversation at hand? Cold. Aloof. Uninterested. And certainly NOT listening.

When you don’t have eye communication, you don’t have communication. Next time someone pops by your office or cube, or calls your name… just stop, look, and listen.

4 comments on “Be here and now in the here and now.

  1. Great points here, Kelly.

    I know one presenter who has the emcee ask people to put their cell phones and blackberries on ‘Stun!’ before introducing him.

    Young people who text each other, even when sitting next to one another, are going to have a hard time communicating in the ‘real’ and ‘business’ world.

    It is a serious problem that is getting worse.

    Thanks for your post!

  2. My generation really needs to read and hear about this blog. Not only has this become apart of people’s lives but it has effected us in so many ways. Our relationships with friends and family (as you said before) has completely changed us and made us distant from them.

    I feel that my generation can not focus in classroom settings and even in church without pulling out there cell phones and begin texting. It has become a greater trend to try and “multi-task” when there is really no such thing. When we sit down and think about multitasking, you can not do more than one thing at a time because you have to pause one task to do another. So, to be completely honest, we should go back to “Be here and now in the here and now” instead of trying to be everywhere at once. It’s a lot less havoc that way. Thank you for writing this blog, loved it!

  3. You know what gets me? The people who go through a supermarket checkout having a conversation on their phone & never even looking at the person working there. Rude rude rude!!

  4. Years ago, I worked for an organization that demanded we leave cell phones in our cars when we went in to meet with clients. The corporate policy was “the person in front of you is always more important than anything on your cell phone. Don’t even tempt yourself by bringing the phone into a meeting.”

    I still follow this policy, but it surprises many.

    I spend enough time with techno-gadgetry. When I have a living, breathing human in front of me, I want to connect on the human level.

    Works for me!