I imagine you feel the same way I do about the technology we use today. For leaders in particular, it is a gift. It feeds us information, extends our message, speeds our administrative processes, and generally makes life richer.
Yet we know the dangers. We can allow our devices to take time from those around us. The experts also tell us that we can develop device addiction, that the use of the cell phone can be as addictive as a drug or junk food.
I am aware of all these concerns, but I still believe that our technology is a gift. I thank God nearly every day that I live at this time with these possibilities. However I want to help us all use our devices wisely. So, in this Leading Thoughts, I want to talk to you about a practice that will help you socially. In next week’s Leading Thoughts, I’m going to talk to you about some brain science about how we use our devices that you need to know.
First, let me suggest a practice that will help you socially. One of the biggest challenges we deal with when we use our devices is what others might assume we are doing and the message it sends.
I use my devices for a wide variety of purposes. If I am staring at my iPhone, I might be doing a thousand things, most of them healthy and helpful. In thinking over my last week’s use of my iPhone, I have read Shakespeare, read the Bible, read the history of a country I was entering, studied a language, advised governing officials, edited important text, tracked a very complicated travel itinerary as I was living it, prayed through prayer lists, made lists for self-improvement, and outlined a new book. This is just part of what I did while staring at my phone.
While I was doing all these things, I looked the same as when I’m playing video games or having meaningless text exchanges with friends—which, by the way, I sometimes do. The problem, though, is not that I’m using my phone. The problem is what people perceive I’m doing, and whether I’m giving those present the proper attention.
The answer, I have learned, is to narrate what I’m doing on my phone. If someone walks up while I’m reading a book, I say, “Hi! Man, I’m reading the most fascinating book!” Or, during a dinner chat, I’ll say, “You know, let me look that up on my phone.” Or, I say, “I’m going to pull aside here to check that fact we’re talking about. I’ll be right back to you.”
You see how it goes. I also tell people why I’m taking phone calls. I always take Bev’s phone calls if at all possible, so I’ll say out loud, “Guys, excuse me for a moment. Bev is calling and I’m committed to taking her calls.”
You see, when I do this, no one resents me taking a call. No one is upset if I sit quietly for a moment working on my phone—if they know that I’m still with them in the meeting or conversation. I just have to let them know.
Why? Because when it comes to a cell phone, a person looking at porn looks just like a person playing a video game looks just like a guy ordering socks who in turn looks just like a guy looking up football scores and all of this looks just like the guy reading the Bible, Shakespeare, or a sweet email from Grandma.
How will they know if you don’t tell them? My suggestion: Get in the habit of casually narrating what you’re doing on your devices when you are with people. It will remove the assumptions, thus removing resentment, and free you to be as productive as you need to be.