Your cell phone could be sending all the wrong signals. I’m not talking about the occasional accidental pocket call or mysterious text. How you use your smartphone could be creating communication roadblocks instead of removing them. If you want to make sure you are presenting yourself as professional and approachable, there is a smart way to use your smartphone at work.
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” – George Bernard Shaw
The assumption is that the sum of all human communication resides in the spoken or written word. For many, most interaction happens via text, Snapchat, Twitter or Instagram. The truth is, our body language is a significant contributor to communication. Now that smartphones have become an electronic extension of ourselves, it’s important to understand the role they play. In other words, how we interact with our phone around others matters more than you think.
If you are like most people, myself included, we couldn’t imagine leaving home without our smartphone. I’d be willing to bet a few people might not be able to find work if it wasn’t for GPS navigation on their Google app. Regardless, if you put your phone on the table in front of you around others, it sends the wrong signal. There are reasons why many successful people don’t bring smartphones into meetings.
You may as well tell the person or persons you are speaking or meeting with that they really aren’t that important to you. You are unwittingly sending a clear signal that whatever is on your phone, comes first. Resist the urge to have your smartphone on the table in front of you. Put it away, or better yet, do not bring it to the meeting at all.
Have you ever tried talking to someone that is constantly looking at their phone? Maybe you didn’t try because you felt that you might be interrupting. What if that person starts playing with their phone after they started talking to you? It doesn’t feel comfortable to speak to someone who is obviously distracted. For one: it’s a waste of time. The art of conversation is on a severe decline because most people are constantly on their phone!
If you start looking at your phone during the middle of a conversation it’s not only rude but you are nonverbally telling that person that you are too busy for them. If you genuinely are too busy to chat – you could politely say: “I’m waiting for a call” or “I have a deadline, can we talk later?”
Having your smartphone on your desk at work isn’t helping your productivity. Studies have shown that constant distraction with the demand on our brains to rapidly switch between tasks is mentally taxing. Since most people are attached to their smartphone, there is a constant temptation to look at it while working. The University of Texas at Austin found that even having a smartphone near you drains your productivity.
Your cognitive capacity is significantly reduced when your smartphone is within reach — even if it’s off. – Study from the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin
Leave your phone in your desk drawer. Keep it out of sight. If you can, leave it in your car. Even if you can resist the urge to look at it multiple times an hour, the mere presence of a smartphone signals that you’d rather be interrupted than be productive.
While data indicates that US professionals are spending more than 5 hours per day on their smartphones, you don’t want to be mistaken for a slacker! If you are a constant ‘phone-fiddler’ you might wonder why you didn’t get that promotion you wanted. Well, if part of your 5-hour phone absorption is happening at work: that’s probably why.
A CareerBuilder survey found that more than half of hiring managers believe employees are extremely unproductive due to smartphones. Mike Elgan predicts a new trend of smartphone fasting due to the number of issues that these devices are causing in personal relationships and at work. Even if you need Google to get you home, you might want to reconsider where you stash your phone during the workday.
What we say matters. How we say it with our body language matters even more. Nonverbal signals are important considerations if you want to fit into the office culture, be considered an engaged employee or someone who actually cares about others. How we interact with our smartphones defines our relationships. Be mindful and use your smartphone smartly… um, wisely.