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Are you “phubbing” your relationships?

Feb 18, 2020 | Leadership, NOISE

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Are you guilty of “phubbing” (i.e., snubbing someone to pay more attention to your phone)? So addicted to your devices and other distractions your face-to-face interactions are superficial?

Technology can get the best of people sometimes. Research shows 59% of people checked their work email while on vacation, 10% checked it at a child’s school event, and 9% during a wedding, all times when focus should be elsewhere.1  

Maintaining healthy relationships is hard when digital disruptions and daily distractions cause you to inadvertently tune out what really matters. With Valentine’s Day in mind, here are four noise-reducing actions you can take to improve your relationships this month:

  1. Be a Present Listener: Try engaging in a 15-minute conversation without letting your mind wander. Focus on actively listening to what the other person is saying by staying in the moment and giving the gift of your undivided attention. When you commit to present listening, it can feel like the best gift.
  2. Reset Your Relationship with Your Devices: Has your smartphone, computer, or tablet become your boss, rather than the other way around? If you hear an alert go off while talking to a friend, does it instantly absorb your attention? Change the relationship with your device from push to pull; be intentional about checking your email and texts. You’ll strengthen your ability to tune out noise — and improve your personal relationships.  
  3. Say No to Your Impulses: Noise causes your mind to get yanked around, latching onto things that don’t matter. To avoid distractions when you’re spending time with someone, practice saying no to the temptation to check a notification or email right away. Start small – try to ignore distractions for at least 30 seconds. Electronic communication can usually wait. But the person sitting in front of you may not.
  4. Be a Focus Manager: In addition to improving your own attention, you can help others around you by becoming a focus manager. This is an unofficial job title you can carry into a variety of circumstances and relationships, empowering yourself to help others recognize when they are losing focus. As a bonus, working together on noise reduction offers a common goal and bonding experience between you and your peers.

This February is the perfect time to reassess whether you are guilty of phubbing and reconsider how you connect with others. When you make the effort to cut out distractions and be fully present with the people you care about, everyone in your life will thank you.

For more tips on reducing noise, check out my book, Noise: Living and leading when nobody can focus.  

1 David Kelleher, “Survey: 81% of U.S. Employees Check Their Work Mail Outside Work Hours [INFOGRAPHIC],” Tech Talk, GFI Software, May 20, 2013,





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