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warn[1]Eye contact is a vital ingredient of in-person communication whether one-on-one or in meetings and seminars, at least I haven’t seen research that that has changed. Its absence is particularly noticeable in small meetings. It’s obvious when people are looking down at their laps or keep glancing sideways toward the phones they perpetually have lying next to them … even at one-on-one breakfast and luncheon meetings.

I think it’s common courtesy to make eye contact with a person whom you have engaged in conversation by offering or accepting an invitation to meet or at an event or in the office.

Is there a new form of courtesy (or lack thereof) that says you can interrupt the flow of the conversation and obviously look away to text, read an email or accept a call when you “hear” your phone?

Do you make the person you are with feel less important than an email or phone call from someone you have not engaged to meet with you? Is it okay for the person to be frustrated by the interruptions or in the guise of changing communication rules, does that person also begin checking emails and texting?

Granted there may be periodic urgent calls; however, are so many people today really that important … or do they believe they are and want you to have the same perception? Or do they need to be in 24/7 contact with multiple people simultaneously?

I have yet to meet a multi-tasking communication skills expert!

Last week I attended a small meeting where the unstructured discussion was on a potential leadership gap down the road since Millennials have different values than Baby Boomers, the experts on that topic say.

An example was brought up of a company that changed a rule because Millennials didn’t like it … it was an inconvenience. The conversation than lead to a discussion that the lack of courtesy might need to be accepted since it is becoming acceptable to handle emails and texts during meetings.

Before I ask what you think, I want to share what the other meeting attendees said when I asked them why they (and they were either Boomers or very near there to) had their phones lying on the table by them:

    • My jeans are tight, and I needed a place to put my phone.
    • I’m meeting someone afterwards, and I wanted to see if he was on his way.
    • To see the time … although I realize now there is a clock on the wall in front of me.
    • Habit.
    • I needed to see if anyone was cancelling this morning

And so now I ask you, is common courtesy less important that it used to be?

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