Keith Fowler

Back to the Future? Still be present when speaking

Back in 1989, Marty McFly predicted several technological advancements when he was travelling back to the future for a second time. Although hoverboards are not yet a reality the filmmakers were right about a few things in 2015 – mainly the nature of communications.

Whether video communication, touch screen technology or the use of tablets one thing they couldn’t predict was the impact the gadgets would have on 21st century lives. We now use the greatest variety of mediums and platforms to communicate – all of which threaten the age old art of the spoken word.

Adults spend an average of 2.8 hours on their mobile devices each day

ccording to Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers’s (KPCB) annual Internet Trends report. That’s up 30 minutes since 2013, the year in which KPCB found that modern smartphone users check their phones 150 times a day.

It probably won’t come as a surprise then that in recent years the impact of digital communication on verbal communication has been a discussion point with our clients. The main gripe? That die hard gadget fans, especially the younger generation of millennials, are less likely to engage in face to face conversation in order to collaborate or problem solve. Instead they choose social media, phone or email.

The consequence of this can be poorly developed social and communication skills, earning a perception of rudeness and/or inconsiderate behaviour. And may limit their opportunities for career progression.

Ironically, being connected online is causing a communication breakdown offline.

Here’s my advice to help stay present when speaking face to face:

Stay Engaged – Be visibly present in conversations

Millennials et al are earning a reputation for being easily distracted, impatient or switched off from conversation. This can be unnerving and irritating for others who are trying to engage with you. Here are three quick tips that can help you stay in the moment and avoid upsetting others:

Remove Distractions

Put your phone in your pocket or bag to avoid the temptation to check it. This way it doesn’t have a “seat at the table” and the right to interrupt. And if you really can’t trust yourself not to be constantly distracted by your phone then don’t take your phone to meetings. If you are expecting an important call then ask a colleague to answer for you so that it doesn’t go to voicemail.

Face-to-face Networking

Remember that people hire you, not technology. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to make good connections with people. They may well open doors for you in the future. Plus spending more time with people will help you become a better all-round communicator, online and offline.

Habits might have changed since Marty McFly travelled back to the future but effective face to face communication is still as important as ever to build relationships, trust and reputation, and earn respect and recognition – all key contributors to career progression and success in the workplace.

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