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As I sat in the back of a taxi rushing from one appointment to another this week… quick to check my phone for messages as soon as I jumped in the cab, the taxi driver asked “And how’s your day going?” I stopped and chatted and found out what he thought of the troubles with the unions and Qantas. The taxi driver lamented that most people were to busy on their mobile phones to chat any more. As I said goodbye and thanked the cab driver– I noted how great it was to have a chat and hear someone else’s point of view.

It made me wonder “what do I miss out on because I am often not ‘present’ as I focus on what my iPhone presents to me. Perhaps it is pretty lonely being a cab driver now – if customers no longer ‘havachat’.

When a plane touches down – many simultaneous ‘ding dings’ chime out demanding the attention of their owner. Most business people seem completely addicted to their phones.

I friend of mine recently lamented that he had been unreachable because he was in an all day meeting – and the response when he did come ‘back to the grid’ was – is something wrong with your phone. People seem to have a high expectation that if they send a message the response will be instantaneous.

I note that I was off air for two days this week – no email, phone, sms or internet. And whilst I had quite a back log of emails and messages on my return– I was highly efficient at getting back to people because I was completely focused on that task in that hour.

Is all this ‘immediate’ communication really giving us the opportunity to do good work? How many emails or text messages are dashed off in haste only to be misunderstood or incomplete?

As the taxi went passed the bus stop I notice that most of the people waiting were all inspecting their mobile phones – not even noticing the existence of the other human beings around them.

In all this urgency to connect – are we not ‘seeing’ those around us?. People who provide us services or who are part of our community.

Last week I was asked by one of the judges in the EY awards – how do you juggle all the different responsibilities that you have – my answer to this question (and it is question that I get often) is be truly ‘present’ – turn off your mobile phone and be with whoever you are with… does this same courtesy extend to those beyond business colleagues, family and friends.

Okay I am taking a personal challenge for the next 21 days to not use a mobile device in the presence of others. And I wonder who I will get to meet and what conversations I will get to experience – and also the added upside of not sending off a one line response to someone with out a considered response…

Let me slow things down – and not rush to everything, and I’m sure I will do better work as a result.

Want to play.

Reader Interactions


  1. Count me in!

    I think mobile phones give us 2 things people crave the most – connection/being a part of ‘something’ & instantaneous gratification. I find it incredibly frustrating when I am talking to someone whose phone rings/beeps & they check it mid-conversation. But I can hardly criticise others given that I do it myself. Time to remain ‘in the moment’ and find out what I have been missing out on. Thank you for the prompt!

  2. I am listening and I want to play! I am pretty good with it and mostly use the phone to keep me distracted in times when noone is really talking but I can see it might look like I don’t want to talk when really I am all about chatting with people whenever I can. I, too, have been travelling and met two interesting taxi drivers who told me all about their families, a lady who helped me catch a tram who had some pretty strong ideas about the weather that day and a hotel concierge who couldn’t be more helpful if he tried. So I chatted with all of them and left positive feedback for the concierge and went home all the wiser for really connecting with people that crossed my path.

    I do find it refreshing when someone pops their phone away to have a chat with me – so it was a nice reminder Naomi! Thank you! 🙂

  3. The saddest facet of the technology invasion for me is what I see when I go to school concerts. The parents are on their phones checking Facebook or twitter or mail until their kid takes the stage. And then what do they do? Out comes the video camera and they focus on another screen instead of on being in the moment with their kid. How many of those videos ever get watched again? And how much more would a kid feel if they met their parents eyes along with two thumbs up and a smile, at that moment?

    One can only wonder.

  4. Naomi, I’d have to agree entirely with this post. Any time I hop into a cab I do the same thing, you never know what you”ll learn or how you might lift there day.

    I feel that today, because of the instant communication, social media etc people aren’t always confident being alone… Even as you mentioned in waiting for a bus, a time you could use to recharge, relax, soak up the sun – whatever…people reach down into the depths of their bags and pockets to feed that urge for connection.

    In saying as much I am on occasion guilty of such but I do my best to connect with my
    environment and the people in it as often as I can as a first choice.

    The world’s new age technology is a blessing and a curse… In the end I think it comes down to being aware and mindful- everyone deserves a bit if downtime.

    Great read.

  5. Thanks Naomi. Whenever I meet someone who then takes a call during a meeting I’m having with them, I always feel like saying…”I don’t remember inviting them to this meeting.” The mobile has become a portable and acceptable list of people who tag along and can be intrusive any time. Really?? Where did the polite police? And being present is hard enough in a fast paced city as we live busier and busier lives. I hear you and applaud your honesty.

  6. Good morning Naomi,

    Another area of people missing out on being in the present is when they have their headphones on continuously.
    If they are going for a walk they miss out on birds singing, frogs croaking, crickets chirping, the rustling of leaves, and people walking behind them. (not safe). They go to shops to order lunch with either radio headsets or phone earplugs in and are busy listening to whatever is going on there instead of giving their order, conversing with the person waiting on them and then leaving – they actually hold up the works as the customer service person is waiting on them to finish their conversation in many instances. If you look at a group of young people these days, how many are looking spaced out as they are not in the present with the people or world around them. Many actually look quite miserable and sometimes are missing a “brightness” about them. So many are not reading to learn or relax, doing needlework, woodwork or some other hobby to learn, relax or perhaps making the beginning of a career pathway. They are so involved with what’s going on in their ears they are totally missing out on everything around them. There is a great big beautiful world out there and so many are missing it.

    Thanks for the blog

  7. Great perspective Naomi. Your blog promoted me to leave the earbuds in the bag on a return flight from Melbourne with surprising benefit – not only did I met someone really interesting, but conversing with someone new and saying outloud some of my goals and dreams made them so much more powerful and my commitment to them stronger – all from taking your counsel to ‘havachat’ – Thank you! It also prompted me to write a blog post about it all and reference your post so I’m hoping more people will follow your lead and take the time to connect.

  8. Hi Naomi, it’s been 3 weeks now since your post. How did you go with this experiment?

    I found it difficult at first. It really opened my eyes to the extent to which I do use a mobile phone while in the presence of other people & how many times I have those ‘half listening’ conversations when I am checking my phone. I’ve also had some really interesting conversations with complete strangers which would never have happened otherwise. So thank you!


  9. It is amazing how difficult it is… and I would say that I am 90% cured… but not completely. It is something that will continue to take considerable effort.

  10. ..what if the person that calls in and interrupts your precious time is an important person to that person with whom you are meeting? What if your important people, partner, children, parents etc called you with an emergency? It is the context always, never the content of the incoming call. I guess you must be one of the world’s leading time managers and perfect with every single second in your life..making sure you don’t waste any of it. You come across as a bit highly strung and control freaky…people around you must be walking on egg shells.

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