How to Have a Healthy Relationship with Your Cell Phone
Most of us get cell phones without a thought about how we will deal with them. A call comes in, and we answer it. A text comes in, and we respond to it. A new game comes out, and we try it. We use our cell phones at home, at work, as we walk, at the doctor’s office, at our kid’s games, etc. We are on our phones or have them by us 24/7.
Have you ever thought about what that means to your relationships? It’s like having a partner constantly with you that you respond to first, no matter where you are, what you are doing, whom you are with, or what is happening around you. That person on the phone takes priority. That means that the person or people you are with are always second priority. Do you want to feel unimportant when the person you are with answers the phone while you are talking with him or her?
I recommend trying an experiment of walking around one day and seeing your cell phone as another person (not a baby). How do you interact with it? Look at the boundaries you have with it and with those around you as you use it. Here are some questions to ask at the end of the day:
Could I say no by not answering my phone? Or was my answer always yes?
If you can’t say no, then you will have some serious problems in life. People will be getting you to do what they want whenever they want it. You will be overworked, taken advantage of, and disrespected all the time. Do you really want to set up that dynamic in your relationships, even part of the time?
Could I say “I’m not available” by turning off my phone?
If you can’t say, “I’m not available,” you will be on all the time, and people will think they can access you all the time. You will be drained of energy. Do you want any private time, down time, or any time for yourself to rejuvenate?
Did I have it on my person at all times?
Can you leave it at home, in your car, in your purse, etc. instead? Can you keep personal boundary space, or do you let others intrude, get too close, show up whenever they want, stay too long, or never leave, and then do you get overwhelmed? And then do you get mad or feel guilty? Do you really want to experience that in your relationships?
How did my cell phone behavior impact those I was with?
Did you ignore the people you were with to answer your phone? Is your girlfriend or boyfriend, husband or wife going to put up with always being put on hold while you talk on the phone? Will your relationship grow and strengthen over time if you keep dumping them for someone on the phone? Most people won’t put up with that for long. Did you ask permission to leave the conversation with the person in your presence to pick up a call? That’s really basic courtesy, and you will have angry people on hand if you ignore basic courtesy. If you do this at work, you will not be promoted and may be fired depending on your job.
While I was on the phone, how did my behavior affect those I was around?
Were you aware of how loud you were? Did you share any personal information in a public area? Did you stand in others’ way while you answered your phone? You have to be able to monitor and understand how you are affecting others. Some people will get angry with you for imposing your conversation on them or getting in their way.
If you can’t keep yourself from answering your phone, then I recommend you come in and work on the issue and any addiction your body may be experiencing to your phone. You may laugh when you read this at first, but it’s a more serious issue than you think. I talked with a boss who has had to send employees to training to learn basic appropriate behavior in meetings, at the office, around others, etc. Do you want to be one of those employees sent for training? What will that say about you to your boss?
I recommend you turn off your phone for a period when you know you won’t be getting important calls and will have time to watch how this affects you. After an hour or two, ask yourself these questions:
How do I feel emotionally? (You may want to take notes as you go.)
How do I feel physically?
Can I be calm?
What thoughts are coming up? (Take notes as you go.)
What am I noticing around me?
Can I occupy myself without a phone?
How long can I go without it on?
The answers to these will give you a clue as to whether you control your cell phone or it controls you. You can change your relationship to your cell phone.
If you’re 30+ years or younger, you are so used to being tied to your phone that you expect others to be tied to theirs and ignore the constant interruptions. But have you ever thought how that affects your face-to-face relationships? Can you keep your attention on a live conversation for more than a couple of minutes? Can you start, carry on, and end a conversation? Can you be comfortable around other people, even if you don’t know them? Do you know how to start a conversation with strangers so that you can get to know them? Are you losing relationship skills that are vital in the workplace?
When I grew up, I was taught to answer the phone—“Hello, this is the Smith residence.” And we always said goodbye. I noticed starting with the TV show West Wing that they never said goodbye. I thought it very strange, but it has become a norm, and it is not helpful. There are times when I don’t know when a call is coming to an end, and I’m cut off before I’m done talking. It’s because the recipient doesn’t know how to close a conversation and/or make sure that it is the appropriate time to close the conversation. Have you learned those manners and skills, and do you use them?
You need to think about whether your cell phone is a tool that you use when you want or need to use it, or whether it controls your behavior.
You may find my article on Cell Phone Etiquette particularly useful. Read my other articles on Cell Phone Security, Rules and Principles, and EMF & RF Information to help you understand what is happening to you.