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Are you talking to me or your phone?

I went to a conference last week, which featured a business expo with about one hundred organizations participating. There were elaborate table displays with everything from free drawings to promotional items and literature. Each booth had one or two people representing the organization.

It was shocking to me the large number of people working the booths that were “busy” on their phones or on laptops and not making eye contact with the conference attendees. It was very off-putting even for me, a confirmed extravert who can (and does) talk with anyone.

It confirmed for me how much we communicate without even opening our mouths.  I am not looking to be critical of the folks who were on their laptops and phones.  I am sure they had perfectly good reasons for their behavior and I am pretty sure that they were not aware of the impact of their actions.

I watched many attendees walk by the booths where people were “busy” looking at their phones and not know what to do. It was such a mixed message. On one hand, they are there with items to attract attendees to the table but their body language and demeanor was unwelcoming.  When I approached the “busy” individuals and interrupted them with a question, most were receptive and kind but I still felt I was bothering them and I tried to be brief.

Even though I paid to attend the conference and one of the reasons I went was to get leads from this business expo, I still was hesitant to intrude. I did it anyway because I was on a mission but I know numerous people did not. I spoke with many attendees who expressed disappointment and frustration at their experience. The attendees were convinced that the “busy” people staffing the booths were uncaring and inconsiderate.

Where are you giving mixed signals and communicating in ways you don’t mean to? For example, if you are spending time with your family and checking email, texts, Facebook, etc., what does that communicate?  If you are meeting with an employee and you answer a call or check your text, how might that get interpreted?

Your intentions are not what gets communicated. Your actions send a message that is going to be interpreted louder than your words. I recommend you stop and think about that. Ask yourself if your words and actions are in alignment or whether you are sending mixed signals.

I’ll bet if we interviewed some of those “busy” people from the business expo, they would deny that their actions (being on the phone or laptop) negatively impacted the attendees. Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter what they think. What matters is what the attendees thought. So, if you don’t think your being on the phone or texting, etc. has a negative impact, who cares? Ask the people around you if it does. Then LISTEN to what they say. That’s what matters!

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