The first time I met Steven Groves, I thought he was a bit of a jerk. We were at the first REBarCamp, and he approached me just after I entered through the main gate. He walked up, we shook hands and he started talking while I pulled out my iPhone to reply to a buzz.
Steven did not keep talking like I had expected. He coughed quite loudly, made a comment about waiting until I’d finished at stared me down like I’d somehow insulted him. Who the f*** was this guy to get all huffy about me pulling out my phone in the middle of the conversation, breaking eye contact and then replying to someone who WASN’T right in front of me?
Oh, wait. Steven was completely in the right here.
I’m somewhat embarrassed to say that Steven’s contempt for my actions that day did not prevent me from pulling that kind of thing again. I did the same thing to Don Crossland nearly every time we spoke when he was in town, Katie and I do it to each other very often and I can’t sit more than a few minutes at a lecture or conference without needing to connect digitally.
Most people would say that it’s rude to do such a thing in the same way any customer at a business expects an employee to get off the phone when serving us. Call it common courtesy or just courtesy at this point, but paying attention to the task at hand should be expected, not rewarded.
For people like me, this is nothing new. I’ve always had trouble giving my undivided attention, I often break eye contact while still listening intently to a conversation and I’m very likely to need multiple forms of input in order to follow along in a conversation. Blame that on my ADHD, blame that on my need to multitask or blame that on my need to be productive at all times, but I know it can’t be blamed on my disrespect for the person I’m next to, because I really do want to hear what the person has to say.
So for everyone who feels slighted, annoyed or disrespected by those who can’t seem to show them the attention they deserve, SAY something. Sometimes we don’t know we’re doing it, sometimes we’re just overwhelmed and other times we may just have issues making eye contact.
Speak up. Now. Don’t seethe. And ask the other person to do the same.
Featured Image Credit: dennis on Flickr