… you check your iPhone while you’re talking face-to-face.

Comedian Steven Wright jokes that once, right in the middle of a job interview, he took out a book and started reading. When he asked his interviewer a question from the book, and the interviewer didn’t know the answer, Wright responded, “Forget it, then. I don’t want to work for you.”

The reason that’s a funny bit is that it points out an extreme example (reading a book while someone is interviewing you for a job) of a common and annoying trait many of us exhibit in conversation: failing to give the other person our undivided attention.

It’s simply not possible to have an outstanding and memorable conversation if all of the participants are not fully engaged. Your undivided attention is probably the most important gift you can bring to a conversation.

So then why, when we’re talking with colleagues, friends, spouses, children — even our supervisors — do we so often look down at our smartphones to check missed calls/voicemails/texts/emails/? It can derail your train of thought; it can keep you from hearing and fully comprehending what your fellow conversationalists are saying; and it signals to the other participants that they don’t have your undivided attention — which makes the conversation less fun and meaningful for them.

We all want to be known as engaging, interesting, insightful — great conversationalists. Here’s one very simple (not easy, I understand, but simple) step you can take to differentiate yourself from many of your colleagues and friends. When you’re engaged in a conversation, stay completely engaged. Don’t allow any electronic distractions.