94% of adults between the ages 18-29 have a smartphone. It is in our hand or near us consistently. Being attached to our phones, tablets, and computers impacts our face-to-face communication, which is imperative to our daily personal and professional lives.
One of the hardest transitions for attached-to-the-hip technology users entering the workforce can be unplugging from the social world for 8-9 hours a day while at work. Below are seven tips to help you have better and more meaningful conversations and relationships in today’s digital age. Whether you are preparing for an internship, transitioning to your first or new full-time job, or just trying to build better connections, these tips can help you get started.
Go old school – pick up that pen and paper
Yes, we all know typing or taping notes is faster and easier than breaking out the notepad and paper. But there are several studies that prove handwriting helps you retain more information than if you were to type to transcribe.
Notebooks are not with us all the time, but when the opportunity does arise, take your notes the old fashion way. Writing not only helps you retain the information, but it also humanizes the setting you are in. Typing can become distracting to the professor, speaker, or leader. Do them the honor by listening attentively and hand writing your notes. It’s almost guaranteed to stay with you longer.
Have technology free outings
How many times have you been out with friends at a concert or festival and every moment is lived with your phone in your hand? The lack of face-to-face conversation tends to dramatically increase even in personal social settings. With social networking being a main source of connection among friends and family, people tend to forget about who is right in front of them.
Next time you are hanging out with your circle of friends, put the phone in your bag or pocket and let the memories form in your head versus on your phone. Talk to your friends about their day and get updates on what is happening in their life versus just helping them create their next Instagram post.
Don’t send that email
How many times have we been at work and sent an email to someone who is a couple of desks over? We all have been guilty of doing this. Instead of sending that email to your co-worker, leader, or office buddy, get up and walk over to them. Ask or tell them in person what you were going to send in your email. After that, then follow up with an email.
Do you work on a virtual team or are you back on campus after your internship? Pick up the phone and call your partner before sending that email. If they do not answer, leave a voicemail describing what you are getting ready to send. Verbally communicating ideas, feedback, or even questions will always yield a better response versus being communicated electronically first.
Limit your social networking time
This is probably going to be your toughest challenge. Catching up on your friends’ lives via their social media does not really tell you want is going on with them. Instead of spending hours scrolling through your timeline to get updates, schedule a brunch or coffee date with your friends and get real time updates on what’s happening with them.
Are your best friends not local? No problem. This is when technology is in your favor. Schedule a time to video chat with them. This is a better way to catch up with family and friends anyways.
Having conversations on the phone or in person will provide deeper connections versus looking at social media updates and sending text messages. And think about it, we all have those awkward pauses within any conversation. Having more of those in settings you are comfortable in will help you navigate through those silent moments when you are in the workplace. Trust me, they happen all the time. Especially by the coffee machine.
Turn off your notifications
If your smartphone is full of apps like the average user, then it probably is alerting you for something every 3 minutes. A study by global tech protection and support company Asurion found that the average person struggles to go little more than 10 minutes without checking their phone. And of the 2,000-people surveyed, one in 10 check their phones on average once every four minutes. Every four minutes, wow!
By turning off your notifications, you limit your distractions and the amount of time you check your phone. Now, there are some important notifications that you need to keep on. For instance, voicemails, text messages, and probably your email. But your Facebook or Candy Crush app notifications can be turned off.
Think about how many times your phone is on a table and it is consistently blinking during a conversation or meeting. Your mind automatically shifts from listening or talking to who is in front of you, to what is going on in cyberspace. Once you get interrupted, it can be hard to hop back into the conversation in an authentic way. Shut all the notifications down. Choose only the essential apps to notify you.
Sit at the front of the room
Raise your hand if when you walk into a meeting or a class, your first thought is to bee-line to the back of the room. Raises hand. Challenge yourself when you walk into your next meeting to go towards the front, or closer than you normally sit. By positioning yourself closer to the front, you get more exposure and opportunity to engage with the person speaking.
It is important to be comfortable when called on unexpectedly. Having the ability to form on the spot responses to a live conversation is a vital part of the business world. Being closer to the speaker will also push you to speak up more. You can’t hide behind rows of people when you are front and center.
Challenge your friends & family
Adapting to new norms is hard when you are riding solo. Challenge your friends, co-workers, and classmates to unplug with you. Everyone will see that by limiting technology, it will provide for more meaningful conversations and connections. Together, everyone can learn to connect better in the digital world.