4 Smart Strategies to Get Your Loved Ones to Unplug

You’ll feel so much closer without the distraction of devices.

Foxy burrow / Shutterstock
Foxy burrow / Shutterstock

Most of us have experienced the great big bummer that is being with a friend or loved one, only to have our companion’s attention completely hijacked by the phone in their hand. And we’re not being overly sensitive: Research has found that the mere presence of a phone during an interaction can affect closeness, connection, and the quality of our conversations. 

But what can you really say or do to make sure the smartphone isn’t a third wheel in your get-togethers? Get inspired by these strategies from members of the Thrive community who found ways to encourage their friends, family members, and partners to put the devices down and be present.

Stick to no-beep dinnertime 

“My husband and I both rely on our phones to manage our businesses, and at times, it felt like we were using them 24/7, even when we’d go out for dinner. Years ago, I started to realize how disconnected we were and how guilty I felt because of it. After many conversations, we made a pact to keep our phones put away with the volume switched off. We also agreed to focus on our dinner conversations and keep our phones away in the evenings when watching TV or taking walks. This has helped bring us closer and bring back the bond that we had lost along the way due to our cells. It’s all about breaking bad habits and sticking to good ones.” 

—Kiki Dahlke, author, Tampa, FL

Make road trips (and cruises) cell-phone-free

“When driving, we put our phones in the trunk so we are not tempted to use them, plus it gives us time to talk or listen to an audiobook. As for our vacations — cruises were my family’s go-to — the second we got on the ship all phones were put in the safe until we got off. It was the greatest way to truly get off the grid.” 

—Lori Paulin, customer empowerment, Belmont, CA

Ask for what you want

“I have asked one particular friend — who is constantly being pulled in a million directions — for direct eye contact when we talk. Generally, we try to keep our phones flipped over on the table and out of quick reach. And if she doesn’t seem to be present, I simply opt to talk later [when she is]. This definitely shifted our dynamic.”

—Dr. Tricia Wolanin, clinical psychologist and author, Bury St Edmunds, United Kingdom

Follow the 3-out principle 

“I swear by the 3-out principle: out of sight, out of pocket, out of mind. And it requires putting your phone away during important conversations — not visible or tangible, not even in your pocket. This is the moment for ‘real’ face time.”

—Michael Thomas Sunnarborg, career coach, Minneapolis, MN

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