My sister Julie, who is also a teacher, asked what we can do when people are using their devices while we are speaking.
What I do about that depends on my relationship with them. Am I a guest speaker at a Rotary Club? If so, I hardly have the right to ask them to stop. I suppose I would ask myself to be more engaging so that people would rather listen to me than “go away.”
Recently I asked a student to refrain from texting during the session. He seemed offended and later announced that he, “as an adult,” has a choice about sending a quick text — that this causes no disturbance. I explained to everyone that I should have made my expectations clear at the beginning of class.
I have added a rule to my short list: “Be on time. Be willing to be a student. Save eating for the break. Save using your devices for the break, unless you’re using them to take notes.”
But now, I’m saying something else: “When you remove yourself from the group, even momentarily, it’s as though you are removing your pot-luck dish from the buffet table. Now something is missing. You are acting as though your contribution doesn’t matter. It does matter.”
People listen respectfully to this, and cooperate with my expectations, which are truly for the good of all.