In her new book, “Being Present,” Professor Jeanine Turner of the Georgetown University McDonough School of Business (MSB) provides tools to communicate in a digitally distracting world.
Published in January, her book synthesizes 15 years of original research and presents strategies for directing and allocating attention in order to be more present in the workplace and at home. A professor in Georgetown’s Communication, Culture and Technology Program, Turner has conducted years of investigation into communication technologies. She first began her research on the phenomenon of multicommunicating, engaging in multiple conversations at one time, in 2008.
Phones have become more invasive, forcing people to divide their attention among several things at once, according to Turner.
“Your number one concern is where your phone is, if your phone is ringing. Even if it’s face to face, physical presence almost becomes background noise,” Turner said in an interview with The Hoya, “And as I really started to see that happening, it made me think, wow, we need some strategies for how to better understand how we’re going to be present at any one time, because it really came on very quickly. I don’t think we realize just how ubiquitous the phone is.”
The state of “being present” is divided into four categories of presence — budgeted, entitled, competitive and invitational — all which provide scenarios for how to listen and engage with an audience despite distraction, according to Turner. Each part is subsequently split into a workplace section and an outside of the workplace section, Turner explained.
For individuals who work at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to strategize ways to separate work and home.
“During the pandemic, you had this collision of work and home, which made it even harder,” Turner said, “You were constantly trying to figure out: where am I going to be present? Am I going to be present in my physical space? Am I going to be present on social media? Am I going to be present texting? In my email?”
Within the MSB, Turner’s insights for effective communication have positively influenced business programs and executives for years; her book makes this work accessible for all audiences, according to Paul Almeida, dean and William R. Berkley chair at the MSB.
“‘Being Present’ is the culmination of years of original research and experience teaching communications strategies to real executives — including those within our McDonough School of Business programs,” Almeida wrote in an email to The Hoya, “We have seen the positive effects of Jeanine’s insights firsthand in organizations across the world, and now this information is available to anyone hoping to become more attentive and intentional with their approach to communication.”
Everyone can find useful information in Turner’s book, whether they seek to improve their leadership skills or independent productivity, according to Hilary Claggett, senior acquisitions editor in global business for Georgetown University Press.
“Being Present could not be more timely as hybrid, virtual and remote modes of work continue to blur the lines between work life and home life,” Claggett wrote in an email to The Hoya, “Jeanine Turner has deftly translated her years of research on the best ways to manage one’s social presence into recommendations that anyone can understand and deploy.”
Although digital devices can play an all-consuming role in many aspects of daily life, putting effort into thoughtful communication and relationships mitigates these negative effects and aligns with Georgetown’s Jesuit mission, according to Turner.
“What I love about Georgetown is kind of the whole, you know, Ignatian approach to caring for the whole person and discernment and thinking about on a day by day basis: what am I doing that’s life-giving?” Turner said, “And what am I doing that I need to change that maybe isn’t as life-giving? And I feel like these strategies can really help us think in the same way about discerning the kind of communication and conversations that we want to have.”