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Phones at the table

Dear Jenz, [Can you] talk to my dad about putting phones away? When I eat dinner at his house he makes us put phones in a pile in the other room!

-from JR on Twitter

Dear J,

You are not alone.  It is not always possible to coax non-mobos into allowing phones at the table.  This is especially true of parents.  In their shoes, you can understand.  They want to have a lively discussion with you and (as unreasonable as it sounds) want your unwavering attention.  Family meals are the one time they feel they can impose their rules.

And they are (loosely speaking) correct.  If it’s “under their roof,” what can you do, right?  On the other hand, they want you to come back and want the dinner to be enjoyable.  So, they can be persuaded into some sort of compromise.

My advise is to set your sites on the gradual re-education of your parent.  The key is to introduce the device at the table for a very specific topic and only for a short time.  To start.  I suggest waiting until that nether land of post-dinner conversations.  Wait until your dad is in a good mood.  Then engage your father in a topic close to his heart, for example, saving the Euro.

Begin with a very simple: “Dad, I wanted your opinion.  I know how much you favor a stronger central bank to shore up the Euro.  It seems that [insert Dad’s hero here] has something very interesting to say.  In fact, I brought a quote that I think you might like.”

The hook is set.

At this point, politely excuse yourself, get your phone and scroll to the quote (which you conveniently have bookmarked).  If your dad objects, just say that it is very quick.  Start reading the quote while you are standing a bit closer to your dad.   Then take your seat at the table and await his reply.

Next, have a follow up quote or passage.  Maybe one that contradicts your dad’s hero.

Before he knows it, he has allowed the device at the table and may find actual facts to inform post-dinner conversations.  This is one of the best reasons to have a device at the table.  You can cut through arguments by going to the source.  If your dad is a reasonable person, which no doubt he is, he’ll see the light.

But don’t push it the first time out.

Right after this baptism, put your phone away (in a pocket) to respect your dad’s rules.  But you’ve broken the ice and you should be able to make inroads at future dinners.  Find another topic; prepare several quotes or excerpts.

When the time is right, bring the phone with you and keep it in a pocket.

This gradual approach works wonders and avoids confrontation.



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