Suffering From PDD? You're Not Alone

Are You Listening? Or Are You Playing With Your BlackBerry Again?

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Marc Brownstein Marc Brownstein
I have always valued "listening" as an art, and prefer to surround myself with people who are good at it. Yet the art of using those dimensional lobes on the sides of our heads is going the way of newsprint. The culprit? Hand-held devices.

Yes, those priceless pieces of technology that we have all come to covet are now prime suspects for stealing attention away from human dialogue. The sender thinks he/she has effectively communicated when, in fact, that has not happened at all.


Allow me to explain. I am having lunch with a colleague and his hand-held device vibrates. I am in mid-sentence, yet he reaches for his small screen to see who has sent him a message. He tells me to keep talking -- he can hear me. So I continue to make my point. As I do, he replies to the sender, which requires thought. And that means he has shifted from listening to me to composing a reply. When he looks up, I know he has no idea what I just said. You know exactly what I'm talking about, right? Happens to you every day. Person either doesn't respond to your comment, or has no idea what you just said, because he's buried in his small screen.

Now take that scenario and multiply it millions of times every day. It happens in the agency. With clients. With my wife and kids. With friends. So much so that I've come to the conclusion that we are in danger of no one listening to anyone anymore! I call it "PDD," or Perpetually Distracted Disorder. And it's spreading like an epidemic.

Now, I am an admitted small-screen addict. But I know when to listen, and when to reply. In my agency, devices are turned off in meetings, and if someone is expecting an e-mail or a call, that person knows to leave the meeting to answer it.

Thing is, in this economy, can people in the agency business afford not to be good listeners? What's so vital that people have to look at their screens instead of into the eyes of the person speaking to them? To check the Dow Jones Industrial Average? Now there's good theater.

Remember, when you're not listening, you're not thinking about solving client problems. And that starts a dangerous cycle. Instead of lecturing those breaking basic rules of conversation, here are a few easy steps to avoid PDD when the other person's device vibrates:

  • Stop talking when your colleague pulls out his/her hand-held device.
  • Wait for your colleague to finish what is so important for him/her to respond to.
  • Decide whether or not to finish your thought. (Note to self: If the colleague is your client, finish it.)
  • Repeat

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