The courtroom is hot. The lawyer drones on and on. The jurors are bored. The judge is bored. His Honor’s gaze strays over to the jurors. One juror seems relatively awake. That’s because said juror is texting one-handed, surreptitiously, down by his knee. But his interested expression gives him away. The judge booms: “Bailiff!” The bailiff strides over to the embarrassed juror, who now of course can’t find the %^& off button, and confiscates the phone. The two minutes of excitement having passed, the lawyer resumes the drone, boredom sets in once again.
What’s the big whoop? Don’t we all multitask all of the time? And who can keep up with 21st century life without access to our technology?
Yes to all of that, but here’s the thing. When your attention is on your mobile device, your EYES are no longer on where the true action is, whether that’s in a courtroom, with your work team, with your spouse or your child. Or even on what your dog is sniffing when you walk him.
Non-verbal communication is a huge part of our interaction, in fact, research indicates it’s responsible for up to 93% of what we convey to one another. Other studies indicate that between 60 and 70 percent of all meaning is derived from nonverbal behavior. So when your eyes are on your iPhone, even if your ears are hearing what’s being said, you are missing at least 60% to 70% of what’s really being communicated. Which means you are missing a huge percent of the opportunities for happiness and success, not to mention the warning signs of potential danger or trouble brewing.
Why do you think television was considered such a huge jump from radio? If hearing conversations, discussions, stories and all the rest was sufficient, television would never have taken hold. You need both, the power of verbal content as well as what’s being transmitted non-verbally.
Get your face out of your Smart Phone, notebook, whatever you're using. You’ll get ahead farther at work if during team meetings or group discussions, which is where people are most likely to train their eyes on their devices, you lift your eyes up to what’s going on in front of you. You’ll glean valuable clues about what’s really going on that others will miss, putting you ahead of the pack.
Similarly, with your friends and family, get your eyes up where they belong. On the people you’re actually interacting with, in the flesh, not the ones you’re communicating with via technology. Remember what our Moms used to say to us: “Look me in the eye when you talk to me!” That was because instinctively, Mom knew she could suss out what was really going on with you when you looked at her. So too, can you suss out what’s really going on with your loved ones by looking at them when you’re conversing.
And nature? Oh boy, the joys you miss when you’re fixated on a screen. Try it sometime. Take a walk somewhere in nature techno-free, and notice all the life around you. Or even down a busy city street, take a walk with your device off-and-stowed, and notice all that you’d have missed otherwise.
Yes, our technology is incredible and powerful. Yes, I make huge use of all my devices and love them dearly, but I love the “off” button too. Life is much more interesting when taken in fully, with both eyes and ears.
Noelle C. Nelson, Ph.D., is a psychologist, career and relationship expert and trial consultant. For more than 20 years, Dr. Nelson has worked closely with attorneys and corporate executives applying her expertise on how people think, make decisions and how they commit to those decisions. As a relationship expert, Dr. Nelson has empowered countless individuals to be happier, healthier and more successful at work, at home and in relationships. www.noellenelson.com