“I’m Not Texting. I’m Taking Notes.” is an insightful article on how generations perceive differently. The high school student author, Jonah Stillman, was asked to join the board of Blackboard, an educational app that identifies and aligns student interests with colleges.
In his first board meeting, Stillman took notes—on his phone. He points out that during a break, an older board member coached him to stop checking social media during the meeting. The board member wrongly assumed that social media checks were the reason for Stillman’s phone use.
I recently gave a presentation on interviewing to high school students where one student on the front row was typing on his phone. I found this very distracting and asked him to put his phone away. He quickly looked up and said, “I’m taking notes.” I made the same faulty assumption as the Blackboard board member.
In both instances, the older generation incorrectly assumed that the younger generation was disrespectful by using their phone as the older generations’ expectation that the appropriate and respectful behavior was to “pay attention.” Depending on one’s perspective, another’s actions can be interpreted as disrespectful or respectful behavior. With the possibility of five generations in today’s workplace, it is vital to consider other perspectives before rushing to judgement.
Stillman suggests reciprocal mentorships to convey the message that phone use is not necessarily linked to social media checks. For both sides, that means being attuned to how someone else might see your behavior. You may wish to verbally acknowledge that your phone use is for note-taking. At the top of my presentation, I usually remind students to silence their phones and put their phones away as they would during an interview. Now, I will ask them to silence their phones and raise their hands if they plan on taking notes on their phones. The solution to avoiding misunderstanding is as simple as considering another’s perspective and giving respect.