I used to have great conversations in the locker room at my health club. That stopped happening when everyone started carrying their smartphones. I realized I missed those conversations and decided to do something about it. A few months ago, I intentionally left my phone in my locker, put my business cards in a little plastic bag just in case, and went into the sauna armed with nothing more than a towel and my cards. Two women came into the sauna, armed with their smartphones. I began talking to one of them, initially complimenting her on her phone case. After a brief conversation, she dove into her email. Undeterred, I began speaking to the other woman. This time, I steered the conversation into deeper territory and before too long, she was confessing how much she hated her job and how she was coming to the gym at 5:30 am daily to reduce her job-related stress. A bond of friendship was formed. She also asked for my business card.
Since then, I’ve had multiple, meaningful conversations with women in the sauna, about everything from politics and relationships to aromatherapy and marketing. Each time I lure someone away from their smartphone, I feel a little guilty, that I’m stepping over smartphone etiquette. I wonder if maybe, over time, this will become some kind of federal offense. But then the conversation turns juicy and I feel vindicated. I rejoice that I strayed from smartphone politeness and glad for the number of new friends I’ve gained in dark and sweaty places.