How To Politely Tell Your Friend To Put Their Phone Away

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One of my biggest pet peeves is when I’m having a conversation with someone and they whip out their phone halfway through and start scrolling or messaging someone.

It is, to me, one of the rudest things you can do. It communicates to me, ‘I’d rather be in the virtual world than be here with you.’

After a recent catch-up session with a friend of mine in which she kept stopping me mid-conversation to reply back to her messages, I realised that the only way people were going to stop doing that was if I told them.

Telling a friend to stop going on their phones when they’re with you is awkward and uncomfortable AF. But, what I valued more than my own discomfort and fear of doing so was uninterrupted connection, feeling heard and ultimately, presence.

It is a rare thing to get all three these days; so much so, that whenever I am graced with it, I feel overwhelmed and grateful. People are constantly looking down at their phones, constantly distracted, constantly looking for the next thing to keep them entertained and amused. We have become uncomfortable with silence and boredom and the compassionate and unselfish act of listening.

I know I cannot affect change on a large scale, but I can begin by changing the way things work in my own life. How do I tell a friend, politely, to put their phone away when they’re with me?

I decided the best thing to say is: “Hey, it’s important to me that you’re present when I’m talking. Do you mind putting your phone away for the rest of our conversation?”
Rather than finger-pointing, it expresses your needs and asks a simple request that they can accept or decline.

In addition to this, I believe that one of the best ways we can go against the “always distracted” culture is to lead by example in our own lives. When you’re with someone, put your phone away and don’t take it out until you are alone again. Always hold eye contact and make an effort to listen and be present to what the other person is saying. On the occasions you do have to use your phone in front of someone, apologise, look them in the eye and say, “I’m really sorry – you are my priority right now but I just need to check/send this off really quickly.” Then, turn off your phone and give them your undivided attention.

These small acts of grace build up; they build up to become the person you are. Build yourself into someone who makes people feel seen, heard and important.
Choose presence over distraction, even if it is boring and uncomfortable.
Choose to create spaces of total uninterruptions.
Choose people over screens. 

Photo via Birdasaurus