Tech Check: Balancing Technology & Relationships

Studio 5 Relationship Coach Matt Townsend has the “tech check.”

Technology has taken over your life if…

10. You call your kids to dinner using a mass email function on your cell phone…and everyone is physically in the home.

9. You run out of electrical outlets to plug in all of your chargers.

8. Your kids are too busy texting friends to worry about fighting with each other on long drives in the car.

7. You don’t want to comment on your friends pictures they posted on Facebook because you don’t want them to think you’re a “creeper”!

6. Your child not longer calls and asks where you are because they are at home tracking your location using the GPS function on your cell phone.

5. You think the quote “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” somehow means that your iPhone, iPad or iMac improves your health.

4. You actually feel a startle or panic when you realize you haven’t updated your status on Facebook all day.

3. Your children only want to eat at Training Table so they can “call-in” their order.

2. You think that your Facebook followers actually want to hear about how messy your house is or the latest “funny” thing your child just did.

1. You realize those precious few minutes of free quiet time that you used to enjoy in the bathroom have now been replaced with an excellent moment to catch up on texting.

So how do we keep it all in balance? Here are 4 tips to keeping our technology use, and our relationships, healthy.

The 4 P’s to Balance Your Relationship and Technology:

Personalize Every Interaction-

Sometimes the technology we are using and the way we use it clouds the fact that we are actually talking to a real, live human being. Many people prefer some of the newer technologies like email, instant messaging, online dating and texting because it doesn’t require the participants to have to engage with the other party face to face. This depersonalizing association may embolden us and make us more direct with the person than we might normally be.

Technology tends to depersonalize our interactions, because we can get quickly into the data and information or context of the conversation without having to actually deal with the “feelings” or emotions of the other person. The problem is that most communication is made up of two parts, our content/data and our emotion/feelings. If we’re not careful with technology, we might end getting really good at how to access the content/data of every interaction without knowing how to actually understand the emotions/feelings of the issues of those around us.

People want to feel connected to others. We don’t just want to be transactional with one another and we use our senses to know when that is happening. One of the most basic needs of every human being is to know that they truly matter, that they are noticed and important. Don’t allow your use of technology to make someone feel like they’re just another of your transactions.

Personalizing Rule:

1. Make sure you’re attentively looking for signs and signals of the emotions and feelings that are being conveyed throughout the messages. Over communicate your own emotions and feelings in the messages using emoticons and other messages.

2. Look for the heart (feelings) of each message not just the head (content). Even if you just need an address from someone don’t give up a chance to still connect to their heart saying some form of appreciation, validation or encouragement.

Prioritize What’s Important!

Today’s technology is incredible at keeping us connected to one another. The downside of being so connected is that we get to hear everything that is going on with every friend we’ve ever known. Facebook, text messaging, emailing all tend to be interruptive means of communication because they act on us. These means of communication can come at anytime in our day and can interrupt other activities we’re doing. The key to managing technology with our relationships is to make sure that we’re being proactive with the technology instead of reactive. Everyone knows what it feels like to be talking to a person about something important to you only to have the person you’re talking to interrupted by their phone.

Technology is driven from the outside in when the healthiest people and relationships are much more driven from the inside out. An example of the outside in goes like this. The cell phone beeps, we jump up without thinking, pick up the call and then get thrown into an issue that someone else has brought to us, potentially impacting our schedule, our life and other relationships. The reason you were thrown into that moment did not necessarily come from inside you, but instead came from your reactive acceptance of the call and your willingness to chase some else’s priority.

Prioritizing technology is the ability that you have to start leading your life instead of just reacting to it. Prioritizing the situation in the same scenario would include the fact that you are more clear about what matters most to you in that moment. You would recognize the phone ringing and before you just answer it reactively, you would evaluate if what you are doing before the call is more important than the phone that is ringing and you might decide to let it go. Prioritizing technology means you recognize that just because the phone rings or the email pings, you don’t have to answer it. You don’t have to check your phone every time it vibrates. You don’t have to chat with everyone that messages you on Facebook. Stop reacting to your technology and start prioritizing the things which matters most in your life.

Prioritizing Rules:

1. Learn to say no to your technology by not reacting to the phone when it rings or vibrates. Turn it off during important conversations, family time or other moments. Get comfortable only checking it occasionally.

2. Set limits as to when and how long you’ll be on Facebook and make sure you still have time to connect to those important people in your life.

Be Present In the Moment

Almost universally with the couples I talk to about relationships one of the biggest problems I see affecting our love for each other is that we just don’t know how to be present with one another. Presence is the ability to sit in the space between two people, without needing to control it, fix it, or avoid it; just being there at peace with each other and able to pay full and complete attention to the moment and to each others needs.

Technology and being present are like oil and water, they are the complete opposites of each other. You would know this if you’ve ever tried to have a conversation with a teenager who is texting four of her friends while you’re trying to explain to her your incredible wisdom and lessons of life. As we discussed earlier, technology by its nature is interruptive and that is impacting us in a way that is making it harder and harder to actually pay attention to the people around us. If we’re always drawn to the external things like technology, it becomes hard to focus on the personal or interpersonal things like relationships. If we’re so focused on creating the tangible products of technology like emails, blogs, Facebook updates, texts, web updates than we may very well lose site of the intangibles parts of life like love, appreciation, respect, validation, encouragement and dedication. The only way to actually start seeing the intangible issues is to start being present in the moment with one another and looking for them.

Being present has always been an issue with more and more technology. For example have you ever driven your car for miles and not actually been in your head, thinking about driving? One powerful way to be present is simple to notice when you’re head is. Next time you’re in a conversation pay attention to if you’re paying attention. Try to focus so deeply on what they’re saying that you actually loose yourself. You’ll notice that peace will eventually fill that space in the moment and you’ll feel a connection to the person and feel more alive and happy. If you’re going to use technology than at least make sure you remain present.

Presence rule:

1. Focus on the relationship that is in front you in the moment. Actually be there…feel what is going on. Give 100% of your attention in the moment, the conversation, the call, the text, the email.

2. Find the peace in the moment…the best sign that you are actually present is you feel peace. You feel more alive, less stressed and worried, more connected to your purpose.

Principle of Proximity

One of the tricks that technology plays on our head is that idea that we think we are engaged with someone just because we email, text, call and talk. In human and organizational relationships there is another principle that may be even more important than our ability to actually just connect or talk with one another and that is the principle of proximity. The principle of proximity means that people who are near to one another because they spend a lot of space and time together actually perceive each other and feel more belonging together as a unit than those who don’t spend time in proximity. In other words our actual physical closeness and the time we spend in close proximity to another person subconsciously makes us feel more like a unit than not being close together. You can see how this impacts us because of how we feel differently with those that we work with constantly, or with our neighbors that we talk to more, or those that we go to church with or those family members that we see more compared to those that we don’t. Think of a husband who spends many months away in the military when his young family is growing. Even though the technology is helpful, even essential at maintaining the relationship, something is still missing about the man, and that is his proximity. “We just miss having him around” is what you’d hear his partner say. That lack of proximity over time makes us sometimes feel less connected than if the person was around.

Proximity Rule:

1. Use technology to your advantage to set up more moments of proximity, where you can be together to actually engage and connect to one another, face to face.

2. Also watch out for the moments that you are in proximity and don’t let the technology interfere with those moments of proximity. Turn off the phones and start getting close.

Matt Townsend is a national speaker and relationship expert who uses his unique gift of understanding relationships to help individuals, couples and families learn the skills they need to better relate. Through entertainment and humor he teaches life-changing principles and skills empowering couples to change by learning to communicate more effectively, to stop patterns of negative reactions, and to get to the heart of important issues.

For more couple advice from Matt, attend:

Date Night Series with Matt Townsend

“Solving Problems and Building Solutions Together”

Friday, April 23

7:00 pm to 9:00 pm

$35 per couple

Location: Millennial Falls in Draper

To register call (801) 747-2121

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