A “Do Not Disturb” sign hanging on the door of a hotel room sends a very clear message. It states to all passing by that the occupant is focused on something else (like getting some sleep) and would see interaction from you or anyone else as an unwanted intrusion; and rightfully so. Do Not Disturb signs are like communication stop signs in that their intention is to thwart off any communication before it starts. They are very useful when we need to focus on a task for a specific period. In such a case, a Do Not Disturb sign sends the appropriate message at the appropriate time.
Have you ever considered that we may be unintentionally displaying Do Not Disturb messages to those closest to us? I’m not saying we’re walking around with hotel-style Do Not Disturb signs around our necks; that would be silly. However, what message might we be sending to a spouse, a child, family members, or a friend who is with us when we choose to bury our faces in a smartphone, tablet, or some other object that has captured our attention?
Sure, there are occasions where an implied Do Not Disturb is necessary, but the concern is when this type of behavior becomes such a habit that we are not even aware how often we’re sending a message, through our actions, that we would rather not be disturbed or inconvenienced by the interactions of another.
In the spirit of Jeff Foxworthy, “you might have your Do Not Disturb Sign out” if:
- You are with someone significant to you and you’re more concerned about responding to smartphone alerts than you are about the person you’re with.
- You arrange an evening out with a friend or a group and find yourself more interested in “capturing the moment” for your Facebook friends than you are about building relationships with the people you invited out.
- People often ask you if you heard what they said or if they make comments that you seem too distracted to be interested in what they’re saying.
Granted, not all Do Not Disturb signs come in the form of smartphones and social media, but that seems to be a significant culprit in light of today’s technology.
This is not a cry to eliminate social media and smartphone technology from our lives. Far from it! Rather, it is a reminder that our actions can often send unintended messages that we may not even be aware we’re sending. As such, we should be mindful of what we’re doing when we interact with those closest to us. If we need to put our focus somewhere other than the person we’re with, let’s kindly tell them that our focus is currently somewhere else and arrange to connect with them at a time when we can give them our attention. Better yet, unless it’s an emergency or something critical, give them your attention in that moment.