Disregard for the present

Recently, I was reading an interview with Jerry Seinfeld.  He mentioned that he’s big on civility and the interviewer asked him what his top three incivilities are and one of them struck a chord with me: total disregard for the present moment.

We’ve fallen into a trap of ever widening orbits on contact and there is a total disregard for the present moment. I recently sat down for a breakfast and asked a friend about a trip she’d taken. Eventually, she looked up from texting someone and said, “You mean me?” I said, “No, I’m talking to the stack of logs behind you”

I’ve been guilty for pulling out my phone during a conversation with Kim or my kids. I’ve taken calls and sent texts as well. The same skill I’m praised for at work, the ability to “multi-task” is a double-edged sword when it comes to friends and family. My phone and access to email has allowed me to work from home and spend more time with my family. But if those times are constantly interrupted, then I’m better off just going into work until I’m able to give them my full attention.

Have you ever been invited to someone’s home and the host insists on answering the phone even in the middle of a meal? The message this sends is “Stop talking to me because this other person might have something more important than you do“. Whenever this happens there’s that awkward moment where the person left standing wonders if he/she should just leave. How about taking the dang phone off the hook when you have visitors over or turn off the ringer and let voicemail do its thing?

People who put others on “call waiting” are no better. My friends no longer even ask if I’ll hold because they know I’ll just hang up.

How many times have you been talking to a friend, spouse or boss who keeps looking at his Blackberry? Have you been in a meeting where it seems like everyone there is messaging and doing email? Why do these people even show up to the meeting if this other chatter is so important?

I never take my laptop into meetings today, but going forward I’m going to leave my Motorola Q in my office as well. Calls and email can wait. If I feel I must stay connected I’ll consider declining the meeting request.

Multi-tasking has its place. But it shouldn’t shove family, friends and coworkers to the background. One trait my grandma has is the ability to give you her full attention. When I’m with her, I feel like the most important person in her world. I don’t think it has anything to do with technology either. It’s about giving people your undivided attention. It’s courteous. It’s respectful. And it’s a rare trait today.