On a recent trip to visit family who I don’t see very often, I was sitting around a table and I realized we were all looking at our phones instead of talking to each other. One relative was looking for pictures to show me, another was texting a friend, one was reading email, and I was glancing at some recent “notifications” that had popped up. For a moment, time stood still as I realized what we WEREN’T doing: Connecting with each other and being present for each other.
Various articles have been written on how although we are the most technologically connected generation, we are the least emotionally connected generation. Our phones, while useful in many ways, are also having negative impacts on our personal relationships.
We all have a variety of relationships in our lives – with friends, family members, children, and romantic partners to name a few. In order to strengthen these relationships, it is vital to “be present” when interacting with these significant people. Being present means not allowing our minds to wander or be distracted by other things, and instead, engaging in and focusing on the in-person conversations or activities that are happening right now. The challenge comes with every “ding” of our phones, reminding us that someone else wants our attention. As soon as we turn our attention to our phones, we lose eye contact, the flow of conversation is disrupted and often forgotten, and the other person feels that they are not as important as whoever we’re now engaged with on our phone. When this becomes a chronic habit, relationships start to suffer.
So what can we do to remain more present in our relationships in this technological world? Here are 3 tips you can adopt today!
- Remind yourself who are the priorities in your life. When your wife comes home from work and wants to talk about her day’s challenges, but you’re in the middle of browsing Facebook, give yourself a priority check. Who is more important to see and hear? – Your wife, or that “friend” on Facebook that you haven’t actually spoken to for 10 years?
- Set Response-Time Boundaries. Texts, emails, and voicemails do not need to be responded to immediately. Decide what is really a reasonable response time for your personal and work life, and then set that boundary. This will take some discipline. But, if you can get in the mindset that your response to any given text message can be delayed for say 20 minutes, you won’t be as distracted when you receive a text, and you will be able to maintain your focus on the person in front of you.
- Schedule a phone-free hour (at least) each day. This is a chunk of time when you silence your phone and put it away where you can’t see it. Preferably, this is during a time period when you are with a significant person in your life so that you can use this phone-free time to focus on them.
True, deep connections take effort, time, and most importantly, your physical AND mental presence. By implementing these three tips, you will be on your way to strengthening the important relationships in your life.
If you have adopted other great ways to “disconnect” from your phone and “connect” more in your relationships, please share your tips in the comment section below!