People used to universally cringe in the presence of boorish individuals loudly talking in public on their cellphones.
The louts must have figured their conversations were so compelling that those around them wanted to listen but, really, we didn’t.
Nowadays everyone obliviously yacks or texts away. Only the real loudmouths draw a passing glance, the rest of the Walking Talkers/Texters are as unremarkable as light posts.
As Jack Webb, the friend of a friend, posted on Facebook recently, “Too bad Norman Rockwell isn’t around to paint scenes of people looking down at their smartphones.”
Our love affair with our handhelds can take things too far. As meaningful connection and civility are lost, there is still room for a bit of Emily Post, in particular some reminders about the niceties of communicating with others.
I’ll call my guide: This is How Grown-ups Behave.
And by “grown-ups,” I’m not referring to any particular demographic. As many adults have lost their way as youths who never knew better.
Rather it’s individuals of any age who know meaningful conversation is done face-to-face. Typing abbreviated words to someone while in the midst of an in-person chat will endear you to no one.
Here are a few ideas:
1. While dining with a grown-up, give the other person your respectful attention. If there is a lull in conversation, you might look around while considering other topics for discussion, smile across at your lunchmate or momentarily sit in silence, just enjoying each other’s company.
Do not pick up your smartphone and text or check emails. Not every five minutes or every 10 . . . not ever. It’s rude.
Knowing you got an invitation to a party isn’t more important than the person giving you her undivided attention. We’re all busy, but prioritize the one you’re with, not your smartphone screen.
And unless you’re a doctor on call or a man awaiting your wife’s labour pains, turn off your ringer. You can call people back.
2. While attending a social function with a grown-up, introduce your companion to the people you stop to talk to.
We don’t mean those you casually know who you’ve forgotten the name of. Everyone has those moments, especially if you’re in a line of work where you meet a lot of people or the memory isn’t so sharp anymore. But while in the company of a grown-up, show some courtesy by introducing us to those you’re speaking to and tell us your friend’s name.
We like to be acknowledged. It’s what grownups do when they meet.
3. Ask questions about the other person. Though you are fascinating, no doubt, it’s polite to show interest in others by inquiring about their lives now and then. They also have a job, family, interests . . . it’s never too late to start being a good conversationalist.
And when they answer, listen. Resist the urge to look at your smartphone. Technology should enhance our lives, not lure us into forgetting about how to interact with people.
There’s plenty of time each day to check in on your online life, but while with others, don’t forget to live in person, too.
Grown-ups everywhere will appreciate it.