We’re living in a world that’s more connected than ever, but that leads to a state of continuous partial attention. This can really devastate both your personal and your professional networking efforts. The inability to let go of our mobile devices interferes with our ability to be present with the people in front of us. It sends a message that the people we’re with aren’t as important as the pings from our phones.
A visitor to Priscilla’s chapter said that she didn’t want to join because of the number of people who were using their iPhones during the meeting instead of participating in the meeting. After that, the chapter decided to make meetings a device-free zone. Despite the anxiety this provoked, the meetings were much better after this.
Turn off your notifications when you’re trying to concentrate. Focus on the person you’re talking to or the event you’re attending. Multitasking is a myth.
What are your experiences with continuous partial attention, and how have you turned it around?
Brought to you by Networking Now.
Complete Transcript of BNI Podcast Episode 385 –
Hello everyone and welcome back to The Official BNI Podcast brought to you by NetworkingNow.com, which is the leading site on the net for networking downloadables. I am Priscilla Rice, and I am coming to you from Live Oak Recording Studio in Berkeley, CA. I am joined on the phone today by the Founder and Chairman of BNI, Dr. Ivan Misner. Hello Ivan. How are you today?
I am doing great, Priscilla, and I have an unusual topic.
Great. I am looking forward to it.
We are living in a world that is more connected than ever. But there are some definite pitfalls in our hyper-connected world as it sort of intersects with our business networking. Hyper-connectivity, I believe, can lead to a state of what I call “continuous partial attention”. I think continuous partial attention is a state where people are giving partial attention continuously. They are not really focused on what they are doing.
Continuous partial attention, I think, can really devastate your relationship building efforts, not only on a personal level but on a professional level. When attending any function of any type, it is becoming increasingly common to find people who remain connected to their social networks, beyond uploading a photo or sending out a tweet about the event. I get that. I even do that sometimes. I am talking about that on steroids.
I am talking about that and a lot more with mobile devices during a meeting. I see it all the time at networking meetings I see it all the time at chamber events. I see it at gala dinners. I see it at BNI, where people just cannot let go of their phone.
While our desire to connect and be connected is one of the strengths of our business in social networking, when we are actually in person at an event where we want to effectively be connecting with others, this desire can actually dilute our efforts by driving us to stay live on our online social media as opposed to staying live with the people right in front of us.
We have probably all experienced it. I am sure you have. I know I have. You know, being in a conversation with a new contact at a networking function and getting pinged during the conversation. When we take our attention off of what is happening in front of our very nose to take a look at what is happening on our phone, we lose our connection with the person who is right in front of us.
We will not remember this part of the conversation very well, if at all. We will send a subtle message to this person that they do not matter as much as, you know, the various pings coming in on our mobile device. I really think this continuous partial events can hamper a person’s efforts to build a profitable business and to build relationships with people, particularly in the BNI context.
This is a BNI podcast. I particularly think this is relevant in a BNI environment. I teach business people who want to rise to the top of the pack with their referral marketing skills to follow up immediately after a networking event. That means taking that stack of business cards you gathered at the event and sending a meaningful personal message to each of the contacts that you have made and connecting with them.
Most of us work at our computers, laptops or tablets, with our notifications switched on. Email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Skype, YouTube, Tumbler, Snapchat- they are pinging, chirping, whistling as notifications sort of fly across our screen. “Look at me.” “Someone retweeted you.” “Someone wants to be your friend.” Even people who do not have ADD are working in this state of attention deficit due to this distraction that all these notifications kind of cause.
They make it easy to sort of lose track of who you just followed up with. You end up sending your follow up email twice or forgetting people. You know, it is that constant distraction, not only when you are face to face but when you go back and you are supposed to be following up, that continuous partial attention keeps you from being alert and focused.
I think social media is absolutely great. I use it regularly to stay in touch and to build relationships, but knowing when to focus on the face to face interactions and knowing when to put notifications on do not disturb, I think, is really important. We have people in our own organization that just don’t get that. I think it is a mistake and I think it is worth having a dialogue at chapters. That is why I chose this topic for this week’s podcast.
What do you think, Priscilla?
I thought it was going to be about that, but let me just give you some feedback. We had a visitor come and visit our BNI chapter. She commented afterward that she wouldn’t join our group because so many people were on their iphones and other phones. So we had little meeting and the leadership team decided that it was going to be kind of an iphone-free environment.
Since then, everybody has pretty much-unless you are working up something on your phone for the meeting- they are pretty much staying with that. I think it has improved our meetings quite a bit. I can say that personally, if I don’t have my phone nearby, I feel really worried about it. It’s crazy how attached I have become to the phone and the email and all of the information that it gives to me.
I just have one more story to tell, which is that I was at a family dinner this weekend. When dinner was over, there were about ten of us. I counted in the living room that there were about five or six of us checking our phones. Honestly, what is going to happen to our world? It has just changed so much.
A lot of people say, “I am just multitasking.” There have been a lot of studies done in the last few years about multitasking and it is not real. People can’t really multitask. What you are doing is you are really giving partial attention. So you are kind of listening while you are reading. Or you are kind of listening while you are doing something else.
That is the whole idea of continuous partial attention. You are just offering partial attention. And the whole reason you join BNI was to go to those meetings and build relationships. You are shooting yourself in the foot by paying attention to a mobile device while you are supposed to be paying attention face to face. Stop that. Don’t do that.
I get it. It is hard to do. Believe me, I get it. But the more you as a member, and your chapters, can do what you just said, Priscilla- I think that was a really smart move for your chapter to have that discussion. The more a chapter can take that position, they are doing the right thing by stopping that continuous partial attention.
I would love to hear members’ feedback on why it is a bad idea to do that at a chapter meeting and maybe some experiences that members have had in turning it around. What did you do in your chapter to turn it around to get people to focus on the very people in front of them instead of the little screen underneath them?
I was at an event the other day and somebody called it “prayer neck”.
What did they call it?
Prayer neck, because you are bent over like you are praying, looking down at a telephone. I thought that was pretty cute. So stop prayer neck and focus on your meeting. That is it for today. I am going to step off of my soapbox now for you, Priscilla. Thanks.
Okay, great. That is a good topic. I think that is it for this week. I would just like to remind the listeners that this podcast has been brought to you by NetworkingNow.com, which is the leading site on the net for networking downloadables. Thank you so much for listening. This is Priscilla Rice, and we hope you will join us next week for another exciting episode of The Official BNI Podcast.