Putting the Person Back into Personal Magnetism

Is making eye contact with your phone the new way to gaze into someone’s eyes? Has the smartphone become the newest staple utensil nestled next to knife and fork?

What is happening to interpersonal communication? To the definition of words like personal magnetism, charisma, and leadership?

My wife and I recently went to lunch at a popular Indian restaurant during the peak hour. Tables were crammed tightly together with busy professionals and the food was hot, fresh and plentiful. Everything was great, except this shocking trend. Of the three couples seated across from us, two had a member with a phone in one hand and a fork in the other! Their partners didn’t seem upset, as the dual-utensil wielding eaters barely looked up from their scrolling devices to shove fork into kisser.

I was stunned. Not only at the behavior, but by the lack of reaction from their dining partners.

Had this become the acceptable norm?

We’ve seen leaders, CEOS, come into important client meetings a half hour late, with no apologies or explanations, sitting down with a big thunk and immediately tucking their chin to their chest scanning their mobile inbox. The only time they’d raise their jawline was to offer an out-of-context “look how important I am” question, only to dismiss the answer and fade back into their devices.

To say this has negative impacts (to team and client) would be understating the obvious. So what do we do about it?

The world is now polarity. Digital connects and disconnects us. We live in a new world yet many yearn for the old. The rise of AI will kill us or redefine “us.”

Wherever you fall along this spectrum, what is clear is that the line connecting digital reality and actual reality has become a circle. That pole is gone. It’s just all part of reality, now. People face real penalties and benefits from Facebook posts. They can get you a job, a mate, or get you fired or arrested. We now take it for granted that we can order a car to pick us up from our phone. We can get a stranger whose picture we like to show up at our door without actually having to speak with them. Whether they deliver pizza or a future marriage proposal all depends on what you’re after.

It made me wonder: In a day and age where brief messages and emoji symbols tapped into a smartphone are considered actual conversations and encounters, how important is it to be talented in traditional interpersonal skills like making proper eye contact and giving a firm, but not too firm, handshake?

Was Dale Carnegie wrong about how to win friends and influence people? That instead of being a good listener and making the other person feel good all you had to do was have a nice picture and swipe right? Or have a great YouTube channel? Or 10,000 followers on your favorite social media?

Are we seeing a trend away from micro-charisma towards macro-charisma? Meaning does it matter more now to be influential on social media than in a corner booth at your favorite lunch spot?

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