These days, we often spend almost every minute looking at a screen whether it’s our phone, tablet, laptop, office computer, or the TV. We are plugged in like never before–for better, and for worse.
While it’s difficult to imagine a time when we weren’t hopping on Facebook or Instagram, checking “likes” and messages as soon as they pop up, there was, in fact, a world before social media. It was a time when logging in online and being all “caught up” on your online accounts wasn’t really a thing. It was a time of newspapers and slow mornings and of jamming out on your Walkman and watching cable TV without looking at another, smaller handheld screen (i.e. your phone) every 5 minutes.
These times are mostly gone. Sometimes we get lucky enough to still have a slow morning with family or friends, but the majority of the time we are busy, busy, busy, and especially busy checking email and maintaining our social media presence on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
With such frequent and fixed attention to the online space, we’ve managed to cultivate our very own online personas. Some of us are major status-updaters and aggressive likers while others linger quietly, looking at posts and photos but never liking or commenting, yet still ever-consumed with the plethora of content.
Personally, I do feel compelled to stay on top of comments, likes, and posts from friends, family, and people I admire. I often reply quickly to interaction and messages. And I usually post content that is related to either my personal or professional focus.
But even though I am spending way more time online than I had previously (i.e. before the internet took over the world), I am committed to managing my offline person just as must as my online one.
A question for you: if you feel confident about your online persona (whether it shows on your Instagram feed or LinkedIn comments), how are you feeling about your offline person (i.e. your real, true self sans screen)?
When I’ve posed this question to people, I find the answers mixed. Some feel very comfortable communicating via email, comments, or likes, but struggle with face-to-face real world interaction.
Even though we may spend our time increasingly in the online space, it is imperative that we continue to work on our offline selves, as this is the side of us that will ultimately land us a job, negotiate for a promotion or raise, and attend events, among other in-person career-related activities.
So, how can you refresh your face-to-face, real life engagement skills?
Here are 4 easy tips:
- Make eye contact with whoever you are speaking with. Eye contact is a nonverbal communication style that is culturally-based, and so you should always be cognizant of what type of social situation you may find yourself in first and foremost. For the U.S, eye contact is highly valued, and so make the most of it! It might feel a little nerve-wracking to look someone straight in the eye, but with practice, it will become more natural. Remember, in U.S. culture, eye contact is a sign of respect and that you’re listening to the other person. Give respect, earn respect!
- Remember people’s names and refer to them by name as you speak with them. I used to be terrible with names, so that’s why I’ve trained myself to get better. When meeting someone new, I try to immediately associate their name with a characteristic about them that is easy to remember, such as “plaid shirt Paul” or “Stephanie loves the shrimp cocktail.” Repetition of someone’s name is also a common tactic of mine as well.
- Acknowledge and understand that people will have different engagement styles. Some of us are extroverts. Some of us are introverts. And some of us are something in-between. This means that we all have unique ways of engaging with the world around us, and that no two styles are likely to be exactly alike. Respect the person you’re talking to by giving them the space they need to be themselves.
- Retrain yourself to unplug and really listen to people speaking. Put your phone down! Walk away from the computer! Multitasking is a myth–and when you’re still staring at a screen, you aren’t really listening to who’s talking. You DO have 5 minutes to chat. You DON’T need to spend every second of your day on email. It’s all about prioritizing. Prioritize people over technology. This is not only respectful, but also good for your own mental health because we all need a real break to recharge our energy.
Until next time,