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Book Review: The Learned-it-in-Queens Communications Playbook: Winning Against Digital Distraction


“We are rarely totally engaged or present. We are digitally distracted. And, as I said earlier, on an ongoing basis we have tuned out what’s happening around us.”

 - Julienne B. Ryan, p. 22


The Learned-it-in-Queens Communications Playbook was written somewhat prophetically and ahead of its time. The main idea shared by author Julienne B. Ryan, known better to most of us as simply “Jules,” is that we are all so taken with the ‘smart’ devices in our hands that we have stopped connecting and communicating with the people around us.

I’m sure she did not imagine the swift and near complete shift to virtual living and working that many of us have been subject to for nearly a year now. Zoom has been a lifeline, but in other ways, it has exacerbated bad habits and poor manners that many of us were already indulging in. For instance, let’s say you’re on a Zoom call and two of your colleagues get into a brief but direct exchange. The temptation to quickly check your phone while they are talking is nearly overpowering – especially given the fact that, since no one can REALLY see you in that tiny Zoom square, it is hardly even rude. But the damage has been done all the same, in that moment, you disengaged.

This small, highly entertaining book is packed with great advice, and I’ll share some of that below. I think Jules’ most important achievement, however, is managing to codify and explain something that she does naturally. In many cases, when you try to learn something from a ‘natural,’ they both underestimate how hard it is to pick up their skills and also have trouble being specific about how those skills can be developed. She does both extremely well, and in a way that makes her communications advice practical and memorable.

For instance:

  • Don’t be a ‘head-down’ person, either literally or metaphorically. If you want to connect with people in a meaningful way, you have to see them, hear them, and engage them. Doing all three of those things at once leaves no room for cell phones or laptops.
  • A lack of response (either spoken or written) is a form of communication. It feels lousy being on the receiving end of no response, so don’t be guilty of ‘ghosting’ people yourself.
  • Remember that the most important message someone is sending you may not be in their words, but in their tone, delivery style, or body language. Have the self-discipline to factor that into your ‘listening’ methods, too.

To learn more about Julienne B. Ryan, click here.

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