At the end of nearly an hour, as we were wrapping up, my colleague said to me ( and I’m paraphrasing):
“You know I really want to thank you for not scanning your Blackberry during lunch. It was a refreshing change.”
When I probed further, he told me that he’s had several lunches with PR and social media consultants in the last several weeks and at every meeting his companions took out their PDAs and scanned emails and phone messages every few minutes.
Literally tuning him out while they typed away with their thumbs.
“It interrupted the conversation,” he said. “Sometimes I would actually stop talking and they would continue to answer emails for a few minutes and seemingly not even notice. It was awkward.”
My luncheon occurred about two weeks after I attended a presentation on creative brainstorms delivered by one of my Weber colleagues. One of his hard-fast rules – and he never breaks it – is to ban Blackberries, iPhones and other devices.
The reason? Interruptions break the flow of a meeting – not only for the person checking email, but for everyone around that person. Chaos and disorder get introduced into the meeting when people pop in and out mentally – information needs to be constantly repeated, people get left behind and instructions are ignored.
“If you can’t provide me with your undivided attention for 45 to 60 minutes then don’t bother coming,” he said.
My lunch companion’s compliment allowed me to feel smug about my own habits. I rarely take my PDA to meetings or to lunch. If I need to because I’m expecting an important call or an email I try to look at my device discreetly. But more often than not I don’t bring it with me.
Because I get irritated when I’m in a conversation with someone and they start scanning their device. It is dismissive – and let’s face it – rude behavior. It might not be overt rudeness, but does it really matter? Your actions are telling the person you are talking with that they aren’t as important as the information on your PDA.
But what are the other costs? Do meetings go longer because of PDA usage? Do instructions and information get misinterpreted or misunderstood because we aren’t focused on the people in front of us? As a result, are we being less efficient? Are we wasting time and resources? And, more importantly, are we damaging relationships?
Do you have rules about using your mobile devices? Does it bother you when people tune you out to tune in to their iPhone? Should PDAs be banned from meetings?