Amybeth Hale – Research Goddess

April 13, 2009, 12:00 am
Filed under: Networking/Social Media, Thoughts

Today it seems like we are always talking about presence. Whether it’s improving our online presence, or simply having one, there is all sorts of chatter around being present and being engaged. But are we REALLY present? I think something is getting brushed to the side. Something that is really more important than having an online presence. And that’s having presence when you’re actually present. Sound confusing? It shouldn’t. What I’m talking about is being there when you’re with people. In person. Being present when you’re in the company of others.

Picture this: You’ve developed a great relationship with a professional colleague. Perhaps you discovered each other through a LinkedIn connection, or you followed each other on Twitter. You eventually find yourself at a party, or a networking event, or somewhere in a social setting together. (This, by the way, is one of my most important pieces of advice in developing relationships – taking online relationships offline at some point.) However, your colleague can’t stop checking their phone, or is constantly sending texts while you’re hanging out. Even though you know (or at least you think you know) that they’re probably important things, you can’t help but feel a little devalued. After all, this is right here, right now. Whatever is going on in their email/texts/etc. isn’t in person. Even if just a little bit, it makes you feel like your company is less important.

Everyone has been in this situation at some point in the last couple of years. And sadly, many of us (myself included) have CAUSED this situation as well. We can’t put our phones or PDAs away for even a couple of hours to spend in-person time with our professional colleagues, and often even our friends and family. This isn’t being present. And it’s negatively affecting our relationships.

A few months ago, I wrote a post called A Breakdown In Communication. To date, it’s one of the most frequently visited posts on my blog. This tells me that people are searching for information on better communication, and they recognize that this is a problem. After writing that post, I made a conscious decision to try to be more present in in-person situations. This meant:

  • Turning my phone completely off during church (not just put it on vibrate)
  • Keeping my phone in my purse when having dinner out with others
  • Sometimes, even leaving my phone behind is the most appropriate action

I think I’ve done pretty good, though there have been times when I failed. For example, I recently went on a very long car trip with my best friend and her boyfriend. I sat in the backseat for the whole trip, and I spent a great deal of time checking email and texting on my iPhone. Present? Not really. Also, when a friend came to visit recently, I didn’t ignore phone calls and texts when they came in and I ended up feeling like I was being pretty rude, because my friend had traveled a long way to spend time with me.

There are of course times which will be exceptions, for example if you’re attending an event that was specifically designed for online networking – like our New Media Cincinnati monthly meetups. We are encouraged to live-tweet from these events. Of course, there are always going to be in-person opportunities at these types of events so it’s good to know when to put the phone away.

Making these personal adjustments has really opened my eyes to others around me, and it’s finally allowing me to understand how others must have felt when I did this to them. Not being able to resist checking that new text message that just came through. Or visiting friends, and then not resisting the urge to check and see what was going on with everyone else who wasn’t there. My friend Krista Neher has a great saying, “I never leave fun to find fun.” When you aren’t present when you’re present, this is the message you are sending to the person or group you’re with – “the text/email/call I’m getting might potentially be more ‘fun’ than what’s happening right now.” Ouch!

Please – if you’re with someone – physically there with them – have proper presence. Make them the most important person at that moment. Whatever is happening on your phone can certainly wait for an hour or two. Making people feel important is part of building relationships, anyhow. We have enough things in our lives to distract us these days – why not treasure the time we have together, face to face, instead of wasting it on something that most likely won’t even be important tomorrow.


Here’s an interesting tool that will help you to be more present – Mobilza: a Windows Mobile Phone application that automatically creates canned text messages to tell contacts you’re away.

Anyone want to develop an iPhone app version of this? 🙂


2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Amy Beth, thank you! I’ve been preaching this too for years. I was once a Blackberry addict and no matter how many people made fun of my rude habit, I didn’t really realize what it was like to be in the other person’s shoes until I got rid of it. Same goes for Iphones, keeping the computer on at the dinner table, and text messages. Being so preoccupied with the communicating with everyone else besides the people you are with is counter-productive to building strong personal relationships.

Comment by Lindsay Olson

Hi Amy Beth, I definitely agree with you. Social networks make it easier for us to connect and expand our customer base, but it’s still up to us to nurture those contacts and turn them into real relationships.

Comment by Mario Sanchez Carrion

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