What To Do When You Are Talking With Someone – But They Are Looking At Their Phone

January 21, 2019

Here's what you should do the next time you are talking to someone, but they are looking at their phone or computer.

It’s happened to all of us.

We are talking to someone at work. But they aren’t looking at us. Instead, they are on their phone. Or checking email. Or doing anything but looking at you.

How do you respond?

Despite the immediate satisfaction it might provide, violence is not the answer here. No, in his LinkedIn Learning course Time Management Tips Weekly, Instructor Dave Crenshaw shared a slightly more subtle approach.

How to Respond if You Are Talking to Someone – But They Are Looking at their Device

First off, Crenshaw doesn't believe in multitasking. Asserts it’s one of the most unproductive things you can do. So, speaking to someone while being on your phone isn’t just rude, it’s also a poor waste of your resources.

Hence, Crenshaw is opposed to the idea of looking at your phone while talking to someone. And, if someone does it to you, Crenshaw suggests doing this:

    1. First off, don’t throw stones from glass houses.

You can’t really do anything if you yourself do this.

So, first off, stop doing this yourself. Make the effort to look at people when they are talking to you, instead of staring into your device.

If you do regularly look at people when they are talking to you, proceed to the next step…

    2. Just stop talking.

If someone is staring at their phone while talking with you, just stop talking until they look at you.

“You don't need to say put down your phone and pay attention to me," Crenshaw said. "Just stop. There may be a lag time of a few seconds. Then they're going to realize nothing else is happening other than them playing with their phone.”

    3. If they tell you to go ahead, either refuse until you get their attention or reschedule.

If they indicate for you to keep talking while they continue to look at their device, tell them – without sarcasm – that they look like they are really busy right now. Then, one of two things will happen.

Often, they’ll apologize and pay attention to you. Problem solved – now you can start speaking again, with the focus on each other.

Sometimes, they might say they are in the middle of something and can’t speak. That’s okay too. Offer to reschedule, even if it’s just in five minutes, when they can concentrate on you.

“Will these tips change behavior immediately?” Crenshaw said. “No, but with patient repetition over time, you can change the culture to one that is more focused on human beings.”

Sounds like a worthy goal.

Want to learn more time management tips like this one? Check out Dave Crenshaw’s course, Time Management Tips Weekly.

Topics in the course include: