When It Comes to Conversation, Here’s Why We Don’t Take Our Own Advice

We seem to agree, overall, on what behavior is unacceptable in the context of conversation. The new study from Plenty of Fish reveals the broad agreement that it’s wrong to “ghost” someone you are dating, yet a sizable number of people have done it to someone else. The study also shows that people of all ages think emojis are a terrible way to flirt, but consumer research shows 92% of online consumers use them to communicate.

Even more telling, nearly every question in the Plenty of Fish study that dealt with quality of communication, people said that face-to-face or phone conversations are the ideal. And yet we know from other research that Americans make or answer an average of six phone calls every day, versus spend 26 minutes texting. It’s no surprise that most people think technology has negatively impacted our ability to have meaningful conversations.

Why don’t we do what’s right? Smartphone addiction has become so prevalent in the Western world that there’s a new psychological term for it: nomophobia. It means the fear of being without your cellphone, and most of us have experienced that rush of panic when we realize we’ve left our phone behind or can’t find it.

It’s been centuries since the Greek poet Hesiod wrote “Observe due measure; moderation is best in all things.” There is a time and a place for everything. Yet, this is a lesson mankind has not accepted or learned. Here are tips to practice safe tech:

  1. Stare at your date, not at your phone. Staring at your phone is a big turnoff, yet the average adult checks their phone more than 110 times a day, according to data gathered by Locket, or once every 13 minutes. Show you care, by placing your phone out of site and keeping it there.
  2. Silence your notifications. We know you are busy and important, but your date doesn’t need to be reminded of this. All those pings, vibrations and rings can interfere with the conversation at hand.
  3. Resist the urge to fact check. We all use technology during conversations to quickly check out facts – oh let me “Google that.” Keep the phone away and check later – it’s a great way to continue the post-date conversation.
  4. Lastly, focus on the words your date is saying and the specific points he/she is making. Being able to focus on the small things in a conversation will help you get deeper into the conversation and take your attention away from your phone automatically.

It’s easier to identify what others are doing wrong than it is to correct our own bad habits. That’s the bad news. The good news is that we mostly agree on what’s appropriate and what isn’t. So, we know that we need to make our plans using our cell phone and then meet in person and put the phone away. The path forward is clear, even if it’s not all that easy to follow.

Posted by Celeste Headlee

Celeste Headlee has worked in public radio since 1999. She's been a host, reporter, and producer and also helps train journalists through NPR's Next Generation program. Celeste is the author of the book "We Need to Talk: How to Have Conversations That Matter" and she's a trained professional opera singer. In her spare time, she's mother to a teenage son and a rescue dog.

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