I attended a meeting just the other day and what is unfortunately an all too-common occurrence became a serious problem – so much so that the person leading the meeting, who was seated next to me, leaned over and said “That is about to drive me nuts!”
“That” being ringing cell phones.
When the first phone went off, there were a few smiles and an embarrassed “oh no” from the offender. The speaker had just uttered the words “I invite…” so he proceeded to incorporate the interruption into his thought – “I invite you to turn off your cell phones!”, which drew a laugh from the group.
It was not so funny when a second phone went off less than five minutes later and the owner stood up, saying “Oh, I knew that was going to happen!” as she made a dash for her bag at the back of the room.
Within the next 45 minutes no less than seven – yes, seven — cell phones rang, each creating more of a distraction than the last. Because we must personalize everything, the group was bombarded with all sorts of musical genres, beats and noises, generating a cacophony of sound.
The solution is very simple. Whenever you are going into a meeting or getting together with another person, turn your phone to silent BEFORE you walk in the door. If your vehicle acts as your office, make it a habit to shut down your phone and put it in your pocket or bag before you step out of the car. You may be unplugged for only a few minutes but it will give you the opportunity to clear your mind in preparation for the upcoming discussion. You will literally be “heads up” for a few minutes, so take a look around, notice the day, maybe smile at people passing by.
Our phones and mobile devices do not – should not – intrude on all aspects of our lives, especially when they interrupt the lives of others.
The ringing of cell phones is rude. It is disrespectful to everyone else in the room as it intrudes on their ability to listen and/or participate in the activity without unnecessary distraction. It is disrespectful to the person speaking as it sends the message “You are not important enough to receive my full attention.” It reflects badly on the offender and is a poor representation of their company; is he that unorganized that he can’t remember such a simple thing as turning down his phone? Does she think she’s so important that her needs should come above everyone else?
For the record, when I am speaking to a group, I don’t make a request for people to turn off their cell phones. For one reason, I usually forget. Second, and more importantly, I assume that anyone in business or employed with any level of responsibility is also mature enough – capable enough – to do so of their own accord, without a reminder from me. In my seven and a half years of speaking and teaching, it has never been a problem.