3 November 2007

When Using Your Cell Phone can be Bad Manners

Our technology is moving ahead full speed, but it seems our etiquette is lagging behind. Every time we turn around there's another article on etiquette. Do we need it? Why does all our good etiquette sense go out the window just because we are a cell phone?

Some employers are even considering banning cell phone use at work because of our poor etiquette.[1]

What is it about the cell phone that we just have to run for it when it rings? Why does it seem so urgent when we get a call on our cells that we interrupt our conversations to answer it? Is our technology moving ahead of our good manners?

Soap Opera Transit

A phone rings on the bus and everyone looks down and reaches for their cell. There are a lot of conversations going on, but no one is talking to each other, we are all on our cells.

Think about what you are saying on your cell and what people are hearing. Does everyone really need to hear about all your troubles with your boyfriend and more importantly, do you really want everyone to know all your private business?

Remember everyone can hear your phone conversations when you are on a cell. Consider this, are you unknowingly leaking confidential work information, not realizing you have a busload of people listening in on your conversation? This may be a breach of your confidentiality agreement with your employer. Be careful!

Smile You’re on Candid Camera

Camera phones are banned in lockers and change rooms in gyms for obvious reasons. It is an invasion of our privacy. But what about in the workplace or on public transit? Never take someone’s picture without their knowledge or consent. In the workplace it is a definite no-no. Here is an interesting article "New Phones Raise Privacy fears" on this subject.[2]

Is that your phone ringing?

Some people have set their phone rings to some pretty strange ring tones: A baby crying, someone screaming or the whole chorus of Dancing Queen. When their cell phone rings they wait for the whole ring to be completed. Why do we have to hear your whole cell phone ring? Please just answer the phone.

Practice Good Manners

Use good manners when using your cell phone. You would not think it good manners if someone butted into your conversation with your co-worker, so treat your cell phone the same way. It can wait! Or if you are waiting for an urgent call, excuse yourself and say this is an urgent call that you’ve been waiting for and you must take it.

Text Messaging

Text messaging when you are having a conversation with someone is like "talking behind their back”. How would you feel if while in a conversation with someone the person you are with was texting a message to someone else - perhaps even texting about you!

Can’t you see I’m on the phone

Actually No! With the increasing use of hands-free cell phones in the office and on the street it is often impossible to tell if someone is on the phone.

We have all seen it. Someone is walking down the street involved in an animated conversation, seemingly with themselves, and then you notice they are talking on a hands-free cell phone. Or your boss is in his office on his hands-free cell and you start to speak to him and he is wondering why you are interrupting his telephone call.

Hands-free cell phones are convenient. They have ergonomic advantages, but people who use them tend to forget that we can’t always tell when they are on the phone.

We need to be patient with each other as we learn to adapt to new technologies and be aware of the challenges they pose.

Sandra Muskopf-Hyde, President of the Etiquette School of Ohio, gives us her six basic rules for cell phone use.[3]

"1. Silence the phone or turn the phone off in public places. Voicemail was invented to answer the phone when you can’t. ...

2. Don’t shout. Everyone around you does not want to listen to your conversation. In respect to the person on the other end, keep the conversation private. Step outside or find a private location if you can’t call back later.

3. Don’t multi-task. This includes checking out at the local store or fast food restaurant, walking down the sidewalk or in the mall, and driving. If you can’t give 100% to what you’re doing, step aside or pull over. How many times have you been in line behind one of these offenders?

4. Give 100% of your attention to the people in your presence. For example, dining with others in a restaurant, attending a meeting, completing a transaction at the store or bank, or speaking with a co-worker or client in an office....

5. Turn the ringer volume down or use the vibrate mode.You may love to hear, “Tip Toe Through the Tulips”, but others don’t want to hum it all day when it gets stuck in their head.

6. Phones off in the audience or congregation. This includes theaters, churches, funeral homes, business presentations, and outdoor amphitheaters."

Cell phone technology is great. The conveniences are endless and being able to conduct business on a cell phone when you can’t be at the office is good for business. But let’s not forget our manners. Good cell phone etiquette is just using your common sense and good manners on the way to work, at work and at home.

[1] More companies tell workers to silence cellphones, From USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co., Inc.
[2] Thornton, Carla, New Phones Raise Privacy fears, http://www.pcworld.com/article/id,113632-page,1/article.html, (accessed October 26, 2007)
[3] Muskopf-Hyde, Sandra, Etiquette School of Ohio, Basic Cell Phone Etiquette, http://etiquetteschoolofohio.com/?cat=23, (used with permission) (accessed November 2, 2007)

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