Distraction out, focus in

Imagine you’re struggling in a class, so you ask your teacher if you can get some extra help at lunch. Your teacher agrees, but when you arrive, ready to explain where you’re struggling, they say, “I’m just going to grade these papers. But keep talking.”

You sit down with your college interviewer who says, “Tell me a little bit about yourself while I review this proposal I have to submit at work later today.”

You’ve been struggling with a decision in your personal life and ask a friend for some advice. But while you’re explaining the situation, your friend is busy trying to create the perfect playlist, with each potential song requiring a 10-second sampling to test it as an appropriate choice.

Would you be annoyed? Would you feel like you were in fact not the focus of their attention? Would you be tempted to ask to reschedule to a time when they weren’t so distracted?

Now replace each of their distractions with “scrolling through their phone.” Does it feel any different? Probably not.

If you’re trying to have a meaningful interaction with someone—not necessarily one in which you need something, just one where conversation is intended to take place—put the phone away and silence it. Send a signal that tells the other person that right here, right now, this interaction is your priority.

When you replace your distractions with focus, you’re more likely to get a similar gesture in return.