Cheri Fredrickson - Leadership Development Coach and Trainer - The Transformative Leader, LLC

Just say "No!" to FOMO

fomo relationships
FOMO - fear of missing out

When you fear missing out, you’re missing the moment.”   

Unknown wise person


Just when I think I can no longer be surprised by human behavior, I am. It happened again this week when I met with someone at his place of business for a scheduled appointment.

We had planned to spend some time learning more about each other to see what opportunities there might be for helping each other or possibly doing business together. Then FOMO (fear of missing out) entered the scene.

We all get to choose what's most important

Shortly after I entered his office, he pulled up his Facebook page (also taking some time to read what was up there). Honestly, I thought he was pulling it up to turn it off, as we were having a meeting. Nope. It stayed front and center. That was my first surprise.

As we talked, I could see that he was watching the page out of the corner of his eye. Then an instant message (IM) popped up, and he turned to answer it. My first thought was, “Fascinating!” He came back to me after he had finished responding to explain what an unimportant small piece of business this was, and he wouldn’t do that sort of business if he hadn’t done other work with them. My next thought was, “If they’re unimportant, what does that make me? I mean, you just put me on hold to interact with unimportant. Hmmm…”

There were a couple more of these interruptions to respond to IMs, followed by telling me he “didn’t mean to cut me off,” which prompted the response in my mind of, “Obviously you did, or you wouldn’t keep doing it.”  (Yes, you’re learning more about my personality here)

At this point, I was getting annoyed. So, I excused myself and left.

What I learned

Now, I’m sure he’s not a bad guy. He texted me an apology later, saying he wasn’t trying to be rude. He explained that he had a hard time ignoring potential business and asked for another opportunity to get together at a place where he wouldn’t have the distraction of his electronics. He promised to leave them in the car. He may not have set out to be rude, but that was the result.

On the upside, this unusual encounter gave me a learning opportunity. One of the things I know about human behavior is that when something annoys us, there’s generally some healing and/or a lesson for ourselves in there. So, I took some time to think about why I was annoyed.

First came the usual obvious thoughts around being busy, having a lot on my plate, could be using the time better, etc. But, after a bit I realized that there was some clearing I needed to do for myself around feeling dismissed in a past relationship. This led me to ponder where in my life I dismiss others. I resolved to make some changes so that I’m fully present when people are speaking with me.

The bonuses from this pondering? I enjoy being with people more when my attention is focused on them, rather than split. I'm more relaxed in my interactions with others. I've gotten more clear about the way I want to be treated by others when I'm with them. It helps me choose who to spend my time with.

Are you missing out because you're afraid of missing out?

Sadly, the fear of missing out (FOMO) has become a pervasive problem. It affects both personal and business relationships in a negative way. I have a friend whose boyfriend broke up with her because she was always on the computer or texting while they were on the phone, and he consistently felt invalidated. She was indignant, saying he just didn’t understand how busy she was. Another friend is a technical trainer who deals with people in class texting or reading social media during class. These students then complain that certain material wasn’t covered, even though it was. They were just busy focusing on their phones under the desk and missed it.

I understand there are times when we need to pay attention to our phones while we are meeting with someone. I once met with a man whose wife was due to deliver any day. As we began our appointment, he explained that he wanted to keep an eye on his phone in case he needed to go to the hospital. He had set up a special ring so he would know if it was “the call” from his wife, and he could ignore anything else. I get that. In fact, a part of me was hoping he’d get the call! That said, those kinds of situations are very rare. In general, people can easily wait until the end of a meeting or conversation to hear back from us without any problem. We’re not going to lose a customer or a friend by taking an hour to meet with someone else. If we respond in a reasonable amount of time, we’re generally in good shape.

How present are you?

I invite you to think about your own interactions with others. Do you give the person you’re with your full attention, or are you splitting your attention with someone or something else? If you’re splitting your attention, how is that impacting your relationship with the person you’re with?

If you feel good about your answers to those two questions, keep doing what you’re doing.

If you felt a little squirmy, then ask yourself one more question: What can I do differently to improve the quality of my interactions with others? Then do it.

Relationships, whether personal or business, are precious! How people feel because of spending time with us matters. I encourage you to do your best to help others feel valued and valuable as we travel this crazy journey we call life. It’s pretty simple to do and it can have such a profound impact – and not just on the other person.

Wishing you deeply satisfying relationships and joyful connections!


Plus get my list of "30 Things I've Learned as a Business Coach" just for signing up!

Yes! I'd like weekly motivation!