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The Importance of Looking Up

The Importance of Looking Up

Let’s face it — we’ve become a downward looking society. Between smart phones, web-enabled watches and computers, most of us spend the majority of our day looking down. Or, at least away from the people around us. Given the fact that non-verbal communication accounts for 93% of a message (what you are saying to someone), it is big problem if we always look down.

Think for a minute about all of the things you can tell by simply looking at someone. A smile or frown tells whether someone is happy or sad. A furrowed or lifted brow signals confusion or surprise. A tear from an eye indicates sadness or grief. And, blushed cheeks show embarrassment or nerves. If we are constantly looking down, all of these things go unnoticed. And, we are probably missing the true meaning of the message being communicated to us by the other person.

Think for a minute about a recent conversation you have had with a friend, spouse, partner or child — did you feel like they didn’t understand what you were saying to them? Or, did they seem confused when responding to something that seemed straight forward? Chances are likely, they were looking down when they were talking to you. Imagine how much easier the conversation would have been if they’d been looking at you when you were talking to them.

So, what can we do in this world of downward lookers? How can we engage in conversation the old fashioned way—face to face and eye-to-eye? Here are a few pointers:

Tip #1: Don’t start a conversation with someone that is looking down. Before you start talking to someone, make sure they are looking at you. Eye contact is the key to understanding.

Tip #2: If someone starts to text or respond to an email while you are speaking with them, ask them to stop. Ifyou don’t feel comfortable doing that then pause and resume your conversation once they are done.

Tip #3: Keep you phone hidden—chances are the other person will as well. Most adults are overly aware of the fact they spend too much time on their smart phones. But, most look to others around them for guidance. If you keep yours tucked away, the chances are likely they will too!

Tip #4: If a person seems distracted while you are speaking with them, ask them if they get it. This may seem a bit too basic but everyone appreciates a clarification. Simply ask someone—“Do you have any questions?” or “All good?” or “Understand what needs to be done?” It is a subtle way of helping someone out who’s been distracted while you’ve been speaking with them.

Tip #5: Pause. Reset. Postpone or change the conversation. Some people are just addicted to their smart phones, tablets and web-enabled watches. For some people mediated communication—communication via an electronic device—is easier than face-to-face. If that’s the case with the person you are trying to speak with, then you have two choices. The first—catch them off guard when their electronic device is tucked away. That’s a prime opportunity to get them to speak to you face-to-face. Second—send them a message and follow-up with a phone call or in-person meeting. Some people like to be briefed before having a conversation so they can formulate their response or questions in advance.

In this rapidly changing world, many things have changed — Saturday morning cartoons are a thing of the past, people rarely go to the movies and the evening news is almost obsolete. The only thing we tend to watch live is awards shows or sporting events — and many people even DVR those things. But, what shouldn’t change, is the art of everyday conversation. And, looking at someone when you are speaking with them is a fundamental part of that. The next time you find yourself checking your smart phone when someone is speaking to you, stop. And, then look up. Not only will you discover the true meaning of what they are saying to you but you also may discover something else — a smile, frown, chuckle or maybe even a furrowed brow.

Put down your smart phone—and look up! Re-discover the world around you.


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