Friday, August 11, 2006

The New Way To Say I Love You

We had guests over at our house the other evening. Everyone is sitting in the living room talking and having a great time. About fifteen minutes into our visit, and in the middle of a conversation, our phone rings.

You know what usually happens next. Somebody says "excuse me" and politely dismisses themselves from the group in order to answer the phone. That person conducts a brief conversation (at least, your guests hope it's brief) in semi-hushed tones. Sometimes the conversation is a bit too revealing, sometimes it is embarrassing, sometimes it's just a telemarketer.

After a few minutes of everyone covering for the missing host, they finally return. Apologies are exchanged and, hopefully, the conversation returns to its previous tone.

At least, that's how it's always happened to me in the past.

Things changed a couple months ago when Deanna and I freed ourselves from this burden. Did we cancel our telephone, you ask? No. Did we start enabling call blocking when we have guests over? No. What we did was far more daring. We actually gave ourselves permission to ignore the telephone and just let it ring. Can you believe it? Sometimes our phone rings, we actually hear it, and we just ignore the thing.

So, back to my story.

The other evening we're having a great chat when the phone rings. Nobody in our family even flinches; including the children. I can tell by the anticipatory looks on our guests faces that they are expecting the old pattern to occur. When none of their hosts seem to notice the ringing, they are uncomfortable for a few seconds. You can tell they wanted to offer us a "did you want to get that?" But our total lack of interest in the telephone seemed to have persuaded them to continue.

After a few rings the sound stops and voicemail does what it was built for.

What is the point of this whole story? Well, I had to blog this experience because I think our behavior will soon become a way of measuring your social value with others. If, every time my phone rings, I ask you to stop talking so I can speak with someone I might not even know (I agree this is better with CallerID), what message does that send to you?

I had a friend tell me of a visit he had to his house a few weeks ago. The two of them are sitting in his house chatting, when his guest's mobile rings. He actually says, "just a second," and answers the phone before he even looks at his caller ID. Here is someone who took the time to travel to someone else's home, but actively sends the message that potential strangers are more important conversation partners than the friend he's actually sitting next to. Unbelievable.

So that's my point. If you want to show someone how much they mean to you, the next time you are together how about completely ignoring your phone when it rings? And ditto' for SMS. Think how much better we'd all feel if complete strangers didn't constantly interrupt our in-person conversations.

1 comment:

Sheri said...

I ignore my phone on a regular basis. Not only does it show those around you that you care, it is also very liberating to not be a slave to the 'always on' mentality.