16 August 2009

Warning! Warning! Incoming text message...

There used to be a t.v. show called Lost in Space. The space crew had a robot that waved it's mechanical arms and yelled, "Warning, Warning, alien approaching" or such other thing to protect and inform the crew. Sometimes I wish I had something to warn me when I am with someone with a cell phone so I can know that we are going to be interrupted. I find it frustrating when people either text while in a conversation or are constantly taking phone calls. Doesn't it make you feel as if you are not important?

But isn't it rude to interrupt?

Apparently not, when it's by phone... A person I know does this all the time. I am sure it is not intentional. She just thinks she has to answer her cell phone every time it rings.

My boss, like most bosses these days, is very tied to his BlackBerry and if we are having a meeting and his phone rings, he just can't help but look and see who it is. At least in his case if he has to answer it he will ask if I mind if he takes the call. Other times we will be talking and I notice his eyes moving to his BlackBerry and I will see he is no longer paying attention to me, but reading emails instead. I usually snap my fingers and say "Hey, over here!" We joke about it, but it is distracting.

Here is some common-sense etiquette:
  1. Screen your calls: Subscribe to call display. If you are a parent and want to take calls from your children, you will be able to see who is calling. And please tell your children only to call in case of an emergency, not just because little Johnny won't let Susy have the t.v. remote!
  2. Take it later: Subscribe to voicemail, then if you are in a conversation with someone and your phone rings, you can check your messages at a more convenient time. Nothing says we have to be available 24/7.
  3. Silence is golden: Try setting your phone to vibrate, then just get in the habit of regularly checking your messages. Yes, believe it or not the world will not fall apart if you don't take a call.
  4. Don't be rude: If you feel you must take the call, excuse yourself, but make the call short and tell the person that you are with someone right now, but will call them back when you have a moment. At least you are letting the person you are with know they are important.
  5. Don't text and talk: Texting can give the feeling of talking behind your back. At least with a phone call you hear one side of the conversation, but with a text you have no idea what the person is writing. For instance my friend could have been texting, "I am at a very boring lunch right now, please rescue me and say I am needed at home!"
  6. Smile you are on candid camera: Just because you can take a picture with your phone, doesn't mean you should. Always get the person's permission and never post someone else's photo on a social networking site such as Facebook without asking the person first.
  7. Things are not always as they appear. As I was watching a man on the bus talking on his hands-free cell phone, I couldn't help but be amused. An elderly woman was watching him out of the corner of her eye and you could tell she thought he had some mental issues. I had to admit, it did look pretty funny as he was very animated as he spoke.

In an emergency, the cell phone is a useful tool. How many times in the past ten years has help been on the way sooner because of a cell-phone call ? There is a good purpose for them and they are definitely useful in a business setting. However, I think our etiquette hasn't caught up with the technology. The next time your phone rings, ask yourself if the time and place is right to answer it.

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