In this always-on fast-paced world we are all super connected to our technology. We want to be on top of the latest email, tweet or Facbook post. We want to appear cool and suave by responding quickly with some witty retort. We want to feel important. But have you ever wondered how you really appear to others? Have you ever thought that you might come off as selfish and self-important? You should! Are you innately rude? You just might be.
Before going any further I have a confession to make: I “was” one of those people who had her phone physically connected to her body. I even slept with the darn thing. Every buzz or vibration was checked quicker than a cowboy could pull his six-shooter from his holster. I prided myself in how quickly I got back to people regardless of the day of the week or the time of day. When meeting with people I sometimes was only half there. I was focused on that darn phone. I didn’t stop “being on” even when dinning with family or being invited to dinner parties. Christmas get togethers also didn’t get my full attention. I was “always” on.
Then one day it struck me that I was being really rude. I mean really rude. I wasn’t raised that way and I like to think that normally my manners are pretty good. It is actually important to me. So, how do I justify this behaviour? Well, I take full responsibility and admit to liking the feeling of “feeling important.” Really though, I wasn’t important. Instead, I taught people that it was o.k. to infringe on my personal time and that I was at their beck and call 24/7. I taught people that it was acceptable to take advantage of me. This wasn’t fair to my family, my friends or even to me.
I wish my epiphany had resulted in my own self-awareness, but I can’t claim that. Two things happened in one day that hit me like a hammer. Two separate meetings taught me important lessons.
The first meeting was with a Vice-President that I reported to at the time. When meeting with him you couldn’t help but feel like the center of attention. After all, he stopped what he was doing. He physically got up from his desk and sat at the meeting table with you in his office. I am sure that he did this intentionally. First and foremost he was moving away from any distractions on his desk. Secondly he was moving away from the telephone on his desk. His attention was 100% focused on you, the person he was meeting with, not anything else. Even when his mobile rang, he ignored it. The first time it happened I said it was ok for him to answer. His response: “No, it is not. I am meeting with you. You scheduled this time to meet with me and I agreed. This is your time. If there is a crisis or an emergency, someone will come to get me.” I always left his meetings feeling respected and full of purpose. Sure, we didn’t always agree on everything, but nonetheless I felt respected.
The second meeting was with another member of the executive team. In this case we were meeting about an important strategic issue that needed a timely solution. During the meeting the executive member answered no less than four calls, made three unrelated calls, accepted non emergency interruptions from colleagues and checked Facebook – which he said he “had to do.” Rather than feel respected I was frustrated when I left the meeting. We had accomplished nothing. He asked me to come back a couple of hours later. I had to reschedule my afternoon to accommodate. When I returned the next time, it was pretty much the same scenario. Another hour passed and we accomplished nothing again. I was asked to return later yet again. It was the same thing. In the end it took six hours of meetings to accomplish what could have been accomplished in 45 minutes. It was not only a colossal waste of time, but it was indicative of how that individual thought of people. It became very clear, very quickly that this was his M.O. He did this to everyone.
So this was my epiphany. I experienced what it is like to be treated respectfully. I experienced what is like to be treated without respect. One person valued both me and my time. One person did not.
The real question however is whether or not you are respecting your colleagues, family and friends? What about yourself?