I’m a tech nerd. I’ve got dual screens on my desktop, an iPad always nearby, and my Galaxy Note 3 is normally on my desk. To make this perfectly clear, on a normal day there are four digital devices lit up on my desk. And if a device is on, there’s probably a social media app open.
It’s not just Facebook. I’ve got Twitter and Tweetdeck, Google Hangouts, Skype, and Snapchat blazing across my screens. Between those and the constant email barrage (mostly spam, I’m not that important), my computer and iPad, and phone never stop making noises.
I’m constantly distracted by things flashing in front of me. You’re probably distracted, too. You just haven’t really thought about it.
Play a little game with me – turn the volume up on your computer, tablet, and phone and turn on the notifications. Do you hear those pings and beeps and whirrs? Let them go full blast for a few hours while you try to work with students. No, really. Do it. I’ll wait for you.
Great. Now that you’ve turned everything on, try to hold a meaningful one-on-one conversation when your phone won’t stop vibrating. Try to listen to a student share their agenda for an upcoming meeting when you’re busy waiting for an important email. Try to focus during a student organization meeting when your laptop won’t stop beeping at you. Just try to effectively advise an organization’s executive board when you’re surrounded by all of this noise.
It’s hard. We’re so constantly distracted that we’ve stopped fully listening to things going on around us, even when they’re going on in our own offices.
This problem sneaks up on you. You may have not noticed yet, but your students have probably noticed it. We’ve become too busy anticipating an interaction that we’re missing the everyday interactions with our own students.
How are we advising our students when there is so much noise coming from so many directions? Access to technology and social media have done amazing things for our profession, but it has also turned us into terrible listeners.
In one-on-one advising meetings, are you turning your screen off, putting your tablet away, and turning your phone to silent? How can you hear your student over all of the noise? How can you advise when it’s so loud?
I realize I’m doing a bad job of this, but I want to do better and I want to do better with you.
So I challenge you to do a few things this week:
- The next time you have a one-on-one meeting with a student leader, have a conversation with the student about what it means to listen.
- Turn off your phone.
- Log out of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
- Close your Outlook or Gmail.
- Or, leave it all in your office and have a meeting with a student outside, in a place with fewer tech-related distractions.
Give it a try. Let me know how it goes. I promise I’ll disconnect from everything and listen to you.
This post is part of our month-long series #OrgAdvising, an in-depth look at the different aspects of the student organization advisor role. This series hopes to bring front-and-center a role otherwise overlooked or forgotten in the discussion of “advisor.” For more information, see the intro post by Cindy Kane! Check out the other posts in this series too!