Get Back into Your Life: What Your Phone Is Costing You
Are your relationships suffering because you are on your phone more than you should be? Therapist and Mindset Coach Nicole N. Kaufman, LPC-A reveals the secret communication strategies that link less screen time with more human connection, improving your overall communication.
The Lotto ticket sales line snaked toward the yogurt and cheese aisle at my local Food Lion. I thought of the astounding odds of winning as I waited my turn to Quick Pick.
“You can’t win if you don’t play,” I thought to myself.
More Phones = Less Communication
All walks of life stood in the line for the chance to win North Carolina’s biggest jackpot ever –1.5 Billion dollars. An expectant energy filled the air, similar to when snow is forecast for our winter-weather-averse state. Snow in North Carolina can go a few different ways. It could snow enough to paralyze the entire community, ice to the point of massive power outage and chaos or be sunny and 72 degrees.
Anything could happen. And a collective hope brought us to Food Lion on this day. A future billionaire could be standing right here in line. I mused about home projects I would do… and paying off my student loan with the winnings. The ability to write just one check to Nelnet and be done with them. To scream “Never again!” in the toilet paper aisle and buy Charmin—as much as I wanted. The opportunity to be bougie down to my toilet paper. Was it really too much to ask? Please Universe, pick me.
We stood in line and waited. Silently, shifting from one foot to the other.
Some looked annoyed. Others stared into their cell phones. It was eerily quiet. Leave it to “hope” to bring people together in a grocery store on a Wednesday afternoon. Yet no one can talk about it, not even just a little. We were all there for the same reason. Yet no one breathed a word. Would talking about it jinx our chances? Were we scared that someone would use the lucky numbers that—we just knew—were the winning combination? There we stood, avoiding eye contact, staring blankly into the frozen food aisle.
How did we get so disconnected that talking to another human being almost feels like intruding on them?
Communication Strategies: The Lost Art of Small Talk
We have found ourselves in a new age devoid of small talk. If you missed the memo, small talk has been relegated to cell phones, mainly texting and tweeting. I am old enough to remember no cell phones, missing phone calls, and busy signals. Young adults today know no such thing. Nor do young people know one of the biggest communication strategies: the art of small talk.
Do you remember how to small talk? Like writing a letter (you know, the kind you mail with an actual stamp). It is almost a lost art. Even talking on the phone is foreign to some. Clients I work with speak of personal relationships that are completely devoid of phone conversation. All communication is through text or in person.
“But if you don’t see each other for a few days, do you at least talk on the phone?” I ask. I get confused looks with that question. “We text,” clients say. My clients wonder why their relationships seem unfulfilling and that something is “missing.” The communication bar has sunk to an all-time low.
You might be thinking, “Communication is communication.
Does the medium or method really matter?”
The answer is, unequivocally, Yes!
Communication Strategies: How to Dialogue
The truth is, all these modes of communication have made us connected yet disconnected at the same time. Researcher Harville Hendrix, author of countless books on relationship and communication strategies, classifies dialogue as safe conversation.
A safe conversation is approached by acknowledging the humanity of the individuals talking. It is so easy to take potshots and make snide remarks behind the mask of a social media platform. Perhaps before posting, we should ask ourselves, “Is this something I would say out loud to this person if she/he were standing here, in my home, in front of my dog or kids?”
Don’t get me wrong. I am the last person to judge another’s colorful word choice or deft use of sarcasm. But have we lost our way when it comes to discourse? Have we lost our appreciation for the opinions of others because we fail to try to get to know each other on a basic human level?
“How’s it going?” “Can you believe this weather?” and “Hi!”
are phrases uttered in pursuit of one of the most basic needs
we have as sentient primates: connection!
Hopefully, these phrases are accompanied by eye contact and a smile.
I love it when northerners relocate to North Carolina. Besides a love for sweet tea and barbecue, Southern folk just love to chat. We love front porches for this reason. And our need to chat has expanded to fire pits in the backyard too. When it’s too dark for the front porch, let’s light the fire pit and continue!
“People are just so, so nice” say our transplanted friends. Is it genetic or is it a choice? Or is it just how Momma raised us? I don’t know. But I do know there are nights when I go to bed tired from talking.
A Few Easy Tricks to Get Your Family Together
I do not blame the dawn of cell phones or the technical age in general for the demise of human connection. But I do think we have choices.
Want your loved ones to come to the dinner table pronto? Power down your Wi-Fi router 10 minutes before dinner is served.
Wait for everyone in your house to burst forth from their bedrooms and home offices, “because the Wi-Fi is down.” That’s when they will smell your awesome mac ’n’ cheese and migrate to the kitchen. Maybe (gasp) you’ll eat at the kitchen table as a family.
Going out to dinner? The person with the least amount of screen time for the week gets to pick the restaurant.
Plus, it’s “no screens” at the restaurant—even during the time between ordering your meal and when it is delivered to the table… which, when you are hungry, feels like 84 years.
To this day, my now-teenage son and I play The ABC Game, a word game we made up when he was four years old to pass the time on long car trips. Each person takes a turn naming a food that starts with each letter in the alphabet. “A” elicits apple, apricot, asparagus, and anise. “B” is for bananas, basil, bass fillets, and baking soda. Eighty-four years passes quickly while playing the ABC Game. Thanks to this fun game, I drove through Georgia and only got to the letter “P.”
Communication Strategies that Work for Couples
Looking to reconnect to your mate in a fun and screen-free way?
Take turns asking the 36 Questions, compiled by researcher Arthur Aron. These questions are wonderful exploration questions and easy communication strategies. They’re designed to rev up intimacy, closeness, and connection—and are a great way to see if your relationship is built for the long-term.
Famed marriage researchers John and Julie Gottman refer to knowing one’s hopes and dreams as developing love maps for your partner. Partnership takes work and effort, and it’s not always unicorns and daisies. In fact, being in a relationship is a constant work in progress. Choosing to put away the phones and I-pads in favor of talking is a first step.
It says, “Hey, I’m engaged. I value you. I want to hear what you have to say.”
Putting this sentiment in a text is just not the same.
Communication Strategies for Life
The research is clear: there is something inherent about humans connecting that technology and pharmacology can never transcend. And I do mean NEVER. So, I challenge you: get off your cell phone, get out of your head and back into your life!
When you leave this world for your earthly grave, I guarantee that you won’t be wishing that you spent more time on your phone. What would you wish for? Then start doing those things today!
Take off the wireless headphones and listen to the humanity—and nature—around you. Make the effort. Engage. You are worthy of being acknowledged… and so are all of the human beings around you. You are only here for one lifetime. Don’t miss it! Human interaction is a gift… worth at least $1.5 billion!
Want to up your personal communication game? Call Nicole!
Need some help with your personal or business written communication? Call Precise!
A North Carolina native, Nicole N. Kaufman graduated from UNC-Chapel in 1993 with a BA in Speech Communication, emphasis in Public Relations. She held sales positions in the retail, automotive, and mortgage industries in the mid- to late-1990s. Always eager for more education, Nicole returned to school in 1997, completed an English Degree and became certified to teach high school English. From there, Nicole briefly taught public school and pursued a field sales career with Scholastic Publishing. After having her son, Samuel, in 2004, Nicole obtained her North Carolina Real Estate License. She sold residential Real Estate for over 15 years, returning to school once again in 2012 for a Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. Nicole completed her degree internship at Center for Brain, one of the premier neurofeedback clinics on the East Coast, and in 2015 opened her private practice in West Palm Beach, Florida. She now resides in Greensboro, NC, with offices in Greensboro and Kernersville. Nicole is an active member of Piedmont Business Leaders, was clinical contact on ABC’s “Face the Truth,” and has an e-book in its editing phase.