There was a time when landlines and home phones were all the rage, and although people enjoyed this new advancement, there were complaints then, too. Calls during dinner, eavesdropping, rudeness and loud voices topped the list of complaints. So, the etiquette experts of the time advised people to be polite, keep their voices down, ears to themselves and call during less-intrusive times.
These days, landlines are all but forgotten, having been replaced by the all-consuming smart phone. Although much more sophisticated, there are still complaints surrounding its use. From people taking calls in bathrooms, to store clerks checking their phones instead of serving customers, to dates being put on hold because of incoming texts, to job seekers taking calls during interviews.
Don’t think it’s that bad? Consider that the cell phone has changed our behaviour. For instance, instead of just standing in line at the post office, we feel the need to text someone to let them know we’re standing in line at the post office. Instead of taking in our surroundings on the bus, we hunch over our phones, scrolling mindlessly. We don’t even watch the door to see if our friend has arrived at the restaurant. We watch the phone for the text that says they’ve arrived and we don’t even think twice about interrupting conversations or repeatedly glancing at our screens during dinner.
Texting Etiquette Tip #8: if you can’t imagine it on a billboard, don’t text it, don’t take a picture of it and don’t send it. Nothing is private these days; the internet is forever.
Times change, we adapt, and so do our manners. However, despite the fact that mobile phones are common and well-established, using them with consideration and respect still eludes some of us.
Navigating this technology with civility has become something of a challenge in part because of an “if everyone else is doing it, why can’t I?” mentality. If a behaviour is wrong, no amount of people doing it will make it right. So, why not focus on our own actions and how they affect others, as opposed to what other people are doing?
Here are my top 9 cell phone manners tips for you to consider:
- Keep your voice down. A loud voice can be disruptive and distracting. Be considerate of those around you.
- Mind your vocabulary, especially if people—particularly children—are within earshot.
- Avoid personal or confidential conversations in public, even if you think nobody knows you. Find a private location or reschedule the call.
- Turn off your phone if it could interrupt a conversation, interview, or activity, unless it’s an emergency (more on what constitutes an emergency below).
- Put your ringer on silent (vibrate mode can still be distracting) at the movies, meetings, places of worship, and other gatherings. If you need to make a call from any of these places, move to a discreet place.
- Don’t use your phone during class, meetings or gatherings with others. (See #8 for exception). Try being fully present with those in your company.
- Leave your phone alone while driving. It’s the law!
- Be honest. If you’re waiting to hear news on an urgent matter, or are dealing with an emergency (think life or death, national security, or time-sensitive), let those in your company know that you may need to take a call or write emails. They will appreciate the heads up, instead of assuming you are just rude and inconsiderate.
- Leave the phone off the dinner table.
And, my texting etiquette:
- Avoid using all CAPS or too many emojis.
- Use proper grammar if you want to be understood. Not everyone is well-versed in texting language.
- Keep texts short. Long texts can be frustrating, so if you must, divide your message into smaller texts.
- Re-read your text before sending and re-check who you’re sending it to. Save yourself any embarrassment.
- Check the time. Texting too early or too late could impact the recipient’s work-life balance or wake them up.
- Reply as promptly as possible.
- Think about where you are. Would you text during a funeral? If it just can’t wait, find a discreet place to text.
- If you can’t imagine it on a billboard, don’t text it, don’t take a picture of it and don’t send it. Nothing is private these days; the internet is forever.
- Save sensitive issues for an actual landline or face to face conversation. Death, break-ups, or other emotionally charged topics benefit from body language and tone.
Being a respectful, considerate, and mindful cell phone user means being able to put the real people and real situations in front of you before the virtual world on your phone. Cell phones have great uses, but we’ve become so attached to them, even addicted, that we’re unknowingly damaging relationships and compromising our very nature. Please don’t let your phone control you; it could be costing you more than you think.