parent using smartphone with child seemingly ignored in background

Put Down Your Phone: Why Presence Is the Best Gift You’ll Ever Give

Have you ever been in a room full of people but felt that no one was paying attention to anyone? Or have you been to an event where people seemed more concerned about making it look like they were having fun on social media instead of actually having fun in real life? Technology is rapidly taking over our lives. It dominates our interactions in both social and works situations. Today, when you put down your phone and actually give your undivided attention to someone, it is the best gift you can give them. (1)

Put Down Your Phone And Be Present For Your Life

Have you ever wondered how much you may have missed out on because you were absorbed by your phone? I certainly have. I’ve also noticed how mobile phones and other technology have changed my get-togethers with friends and even family dinners. We’ve become so addicted to our technology and the virtual world that we’ve forgotten to be present in our actual lives. If you put down your phone and take a look around, you’ll be amazed at how much better your experiences actually are.

Even Just The Presence Of A Phone Presents Distraction

At this point, we are likely all aware of just how distracting smartphones can be. A study done by the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin found that even just the presence of a cell phone distracts people. Even when you’re not using it, it is reducing your ability to focus and pay attention to the people you are with. (2)

Think about it: In meetings at work, everyone has either their phone or laptop in front of them. They may feel like they are focused, but likely not as much as they’d like to believe. Again, think about the last time you went to dinner with friends or family. How many people had their phones out on the table? They weren’t necessarily using them, but the minute a message or other notification comes through, their mind is preoccupied. (2)

Your Phone Is Affecting Your Parenting

There is a growing body of research that shows that parental use of mobile devices is having a negative impact on their children. The kids don’t feel important, seen, or heard. They are then forced to try and compete for attention with your smartphone. This usually results in them acting out or misbehaving, which, of course, never ends well for either of you. (3)

Read: The scary truth about what’s hurting our kids

How To Get Others To Put Down Their Phones And Pay Attention

Perhaps you’ve noticed these bad cell phone habits in yourself, and likely you struggle with them at work or in your social groups, too. So how do you combat this? For starters, practice what you preach. For example, when you’re at dinner, keep the phone in your bag or pocket rather than sitting on the table. Likewise, don’t bring your phone into meetings if you can avoid it and actively engage with the people you are with while you are with them. Finally, while still working on yourself, you can encourage others in your life to do the same. For this, there are a few strategies you can use to make social time real-life social instead of social media.

1. Present The Data

Equip yourself with knowledge and studies you can send to people when trying to teach a group about how much phone use affects our ability to really connect and listen. Many people believe that they can multitask in this way or that it doesn’t affect them that much. Thankfully, many studies show this is not the case. For the data-driven, this can be a very effective method. At the very least, it will get them thinking about it every time they reach for their phone during a meeting or social event. (1)

2. Talk To Them

If you’re trying to change the habits of an individual (boss, parent, sibling, friend, etc.), rather than sending them a bunch of research, talk to them. Let them know that you feel ignored or unimportant when you are around them because of their technology use. Let them know that you, too, are trying to change your own habits and that you want to make a pact with them that neither of you will allow yourself to become distracted by phones when you’re together. (1)

3. Speak Up

You can’t just expect people to change or get with the program without help. Don’t be afraid to call people out when required. Naturally, you want to do it in the kindest, most respectful way possible. You will also have to be prepared for the backlash and for people to become defensive. This is okay – they’re not actually mad at you; they’re annoyed because they know you are right. If you don’t say anything, nothing will ever change. (1)

What To Say

So what do you say when you feel as though someone is being distracted by technology rather than paying attention to what’s happening around them. Here are a few things that you can use or modify to suit your needs in each situation (4):

  • Hey, is now still a good time to talk? I see you’re doing something important on your phone, so maybe you need to do that first.”
  • “I see you’re really busy right now. I really want to connect, but if you need to tackle that, let’s meet up later.”
  • “If you need to check in with email right now, that’s totally cool, I’ll circle back when you’re done.
  • “Could we both agree to put our phones away for dinner?”
  • I’m feeling distracted from what we were saying since you’ve been checking your phone. Can we start over?”
  • To a friend: “I love you. Could we do a no-phones catch-up session?”
  • “I have an awesome idea for our pitch next week. Could I ask for your full attention for just five minutes so I can share?”
  • “I’m sure you’re really good at multitasking, but I don’t feel heard right now. Can we talk when you’ve finished texting?”
  • Could you wait until after we hang out to post that photo?

Finally, remember that if you’re going to start asking less technology use from others, you also need to follow through yourself. Put down your phone, too – with a little nudging, your friends, family, and colleagues will follow suit.

Keep Reading: Image Of Hospital Sign Shaming New Parents Causes Debate Online. Which side are you on?


  1. How to Get Someone to Put Away Their Phone and Actually Listen.” HBR. Joseph Grenny, Kelly Andrews. July 19, 2018
  2. The Mere Presence of Your Smartphone Reduces Brain Power, Study Shows.” UT News. June 26, 2017.
  4. How I’ve Learned To Get Someone To Put Down Their Phone And Listen.” Fast Company. ELAINA GIOLANDO Elaina Giolando. May 9, 2018.