Ever heard of the German phrase “wie Luft behandel”? It’s the feeling so eloquently described as being looked at as through air. Surely you’ve felt it when a stranger looks at you but doesn’t make eye contact or smile. They just look right through you as if you’re made of air.
It leaves you feeling empty and maybe even excluded or disliked when really it’s most likely nothing but the product of someone else’s distraction. It can unintentionally sting and leave you wondering what you did wrong, especially if you smiled or said hello.
It’s hard not to get lost in your own mind, full of thoughts and distractions. We bury our faces in our phones, tablets, or computers and forget to be present. But being present and in the moment is such an important part of your relationship core.
Think about the last time you were talking to someone and they picked up their phone and started texting someone and just stopped listening altogether. It’s such a hurtful feeling of someone just not caring, not only about what you were saying but also your feelings. The truth is, they were probably just easily distracted, but in that moment they prioritized that all too familiar ding on their phone over you.
We’ve all been there and like it or not, we’ve all done it. Brace yourself and then check out this eye-opening article from Psychology Today on the effects of parents’ cell phone distraction on their children. In one study, it was found that one third of children felt unimportant when their parents used their phones during family time. Let that sink in. 1 in 3 kids feels unimportant not because we’re leaving them to do the things that we typically associate with neglect, but because we’re distracted by our phones.
This doesn’t just apply to our kids either. Phubbing, the term coined for phone snubbing, affects our relationships with spouses, friends and anyone else we form relationships with. Looking people in the eye and giving them your attention is a fundamental part of building strong, healthy connections. Eye contact signifies to people that they are important and you are listening. It also subconsciously builds trust and helps with learning and retention.
So put down your phone, look your friends and family in the eye, and watch as they reap the benefits of your undivided attention. They just might vor Freude springen, or as we like to say “jump for joy.”
This week’s action tips:
Make the dinner table a device free zone. If you have older kids, you can even make it a game. Everyone puts their phones in the middle of the table and the first person to reach for their phone has to do the dishes.
Designate screen time not just for your kids, but also for yourself. Just like you expect them to be available and listen when you talk, they should feel like they can come to you and talk when your head isn’t buried in a device. Plus initiating a game or conversation with your kids can do wonders for their self-esteem.
When you’re connecting with friends, give them your full attention. Don’t watch tv, work on your computer or play games on your ipad during phone calls. Even if they can’t see you, they can tell if you’re engaged and interested or answering with mmm hmmm and clicking away on your keyboard.