Which of the following sentences do you think is true?
A. One of the greatest benefits to communication is the cell phone.
B. One of the great barriers to communication is the cell phone.

Both could be true. Unfortunately “B,” the cell phone as a barrier to communication, is becoming all too common. Just the other day, for example, I walked by a young father sitting outside a store with his toddler in a stroller. This father was so engrossed in his phone that he completely ignored his child. I probably stared at him a little too long because he glanced up at me, sheepishly. And at that moment he began to pay attention to his child and play with him. But as soon as I got into my car and closed the door, there he was on his phone again. I’m not accusing the man of being a terrible father. However, it became quite clear to me when he began to focus on his phone again rather than on his child, cell phones can undeniably be a barrier to communication.

We often hear stories about teenagers being hooked on phones. But adults are just as bad, if not worse; particularly since adults should be able to recognize the best uses of their cell phones and to act accordingly. And one of those best uses is to actually call someone and talk to them! But the ease of emailing and texting seems to have made many people ignore that essential cell phone function. It’s unfortunate, because an actual conversation (on the phone or in person for that matter) is frequently the best way to connect with someone and to make yourself understood. A cell phone can actually be a very effective tool for communicating in business.

On the other hand, cell phones can negatively impact business efficiency, a fact that’s well-summarized in the article, 7 Ways Cell Phones Are Destroying Your Business Productivity. Phones can distract employees, interrupt meetings, create a security risk, etc.

So how can you ensure that your cell phone is used as a positive tool for work? Here are the two fundamentals I keep in mind to be sure that my cell phone is used as a business communications asset, rather than as a liability.

1.Use the phone as a phone: I know this might sound absurd. But, I regularly use my phone to call colleagues and clients, rather than relying on it mainly for emailing. I’m often impressed how much more productive a phone call, rather than a long email “conversation” to a client, can be.

2. Use the phone when you really need it: Again, this statement may sound obvious. But the fact is, it’s very easy to always be picking up your phone and scrolling through emails or apps, as a way of filling in time. Instead of doing this, ask yourself, “Do I really need to look at the phone right now, or am I just filling time?”

In my work at The Language Lab, I’ve had managers complain that assistants, whose job is to service clients, will do just about anything to avoid actually picking up the phone and calling them. Instead, they email them. And there are people who would rather text a work colleague than walk next door to speak with her/him. Of course, there are times when emailing or texting works well. And there are instances when using your phone in your downtime is not a waste of time. But, distinguishing between the appropriate and inappropriate use of your cell phone can be a slippery slope. And if you want your cell phone to benefit your business communication, not hinder it, you might want to remind yourself: phone addiction is a real thing. And so is good communication.

Do you need help with the way you approach your business communication? I can help you! Contact me at The Language Lab.



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