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Smart or Not Attention is Needed Aside from Smartphone’s

Posted on December 1, 2009 by Jeff

My assumption is this, “If I’ve requested your presence in a meeting or you mine, attention is expected.”

This comes from a deep respect for individual’s time, yet I find myself more and more frequently competing with smart phone distractions. In an effort to not burn bridges internally or with those I’ve met with I’ll refrain from ranting and simply point out Alex Williams’ New York Times front page article, Mind Your BlackBerry or Mind Your Manners.

I found Williams’ article on the developing etiquette of smart phone use in a business environment frustratingly balanced. I was looking for more arguments that stated cases like that of Tom Golisano and Malcolm A. Smith. “Tom Golisano, a billionaire and power broker in New York State politics, said last week that he pushed to remove Malcolm A. Smith as the State Senate majority leader after the senator met with him on budget matters in April and spent the time reading e-mail on his BlackBerry.”

In reading, I continued to be baffled by the statements made by the pro-smartphone side, “Despite resistance, the etiquette debate seems to be tilting in the favor of smartphone use, many executives said. Managing directors do it. Summer associates do it. It spans gender and generation, private and public sectors.”  My first response was simply WHAT?  If everyone was jumping off a bridge would you jump?  With that said, I have to agree with David Brotherton that business can be won or lost depending on the responsiveness of the organization. Admittedly, I’ve placed my “Colt revolver” on the boardroom table for this very reason.

The crux seams to hinge on a word long ago lost, etiquette.  My grandmother would have turned to the 786 pages of Amy Vanderbilt’s Complete Book of Etiquette for answers. Although I’m almost certain Amy (July 22, 1908 - December 27, 1974) didn’t directly cover smartphone usage, her opening sentence may shed some light; “Certain formal occasions in our lives remain rooted in tradition.” Traditionally, looking someone in the eyes communicates our attention, insures our understanding and conveys our interest; difficult to do looking down at a phone, smart or otherwise.

When the eyes say one thing, and the tongue another, a practiced man relies on the language of the first. - Ralph Waldo Emerson


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