Perfecting ‘the look’

There is much to be said for communicating one’s annoyance or disapproval with a ‘look’. Paddington Bear was an expert in such a look, in the form of his trademark hard stare, which often caused the receiver to become flushed and embarrassed.

I have a look which I bring out when, mid-way through a conversation, the discussion is interrupted by a smart watch summoning its user’s attention. In an instant, the flow is lost and the dialogue flounders. It’s as if time itself has stopped.

At this point I will stop talking (why waste time if they’re not listening) and ensure that when they look up, they are on the receiving end of the look. My look differs from Paddington’s I should add as a) I’m not a fictional bear and b) in the business world my ‘look’ is rather more nuanced.

My internal monologue, Kvetch-style, is “no, no please, you carry on being as rude as you like…clearly what I have to say is of very little importance” or similar.

This is because it’s never ‘just a quick look’ at the watch. By design it will suck your attention away. Like Pavlov’s Dog, that subtle buzz on the wrist will set dopamine levels jumping at the prospect that this message is far more important than anything else in the world at this moment.

It rarely is of course. But by the time the tech vampire has its suckers into the wearer’s attention it’s game over.

As with all annoyances, one tends to cast the net to see if it’s just me becoming annoyed. A quick Google search reveals, somewhat reassuringly, that I am not alone. Smart watches have been linked with addiction and even mental health effects, which is ironic seeing that smart watches became popularised as a health and fitness tool.

One of the repeated themes is how users are often not aware of just how much they keep checking their smart watches. The same thing happens with smart phones of course and it is no less annoying. Nevertheless, the action of checking a phone, while still instinctive, has extra layers of physical connection to go through.

Sometimes my ‘look’ is received by a blank face (the lights are on, but the mind is still loitering somewhere around the left wrist). Sometimes it is registered and a hasty apology added.  Nevertheless, there is a lot to be said for giving the look, in situations like these otherwise we will get so far down that slippery slope there will be no prospect of return.

All of us are aware of the power of ‘the look’. We know it from childhood. We know it from partners. Those of us who have children will have had it from them on occasion and for this reason, it is the perfect vehicle for conveying immediate disapproval; there for a second or two and then gone.

So the next time you get the urge to break off a conversation to heed the call of your Smart watch, beware. There may well be a ‘look’ coming your way…