MLR

Tired of rude cell phone behavior?

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Do you have people in your life who have a better relationship with you on the phone than in person?

Maybe that’s because they’re on the phone. When they’re with you in person, they’re also on the phone – with someone else.

man on phone

Technology seems to have grown faster than etiquette when it comes to cell phone use. What bothers one person may not bother another, but one observer called cell phones “the cigarettes of this decade,” comparing cell phone impoliteness to blowing second-hand smoke in your face.

Hearing the intimate details of a stranger’s surgery in the grocery check-out line has become commonplace in this age of anything goes at any volume. And how many lunches have you had ruined by the businessman at the next table who shouts into the phone and acts as if the restaurant is his private office?

Some people have become so addicted to their phones that more than half say they can’t keep their hands off them for more than an hour. And 12 percent of owners even admit to using them while they’re in the shower, according to the 2013 Mobile Consumer Habits study.

More than 70 percent of women and 62 percent of men suffer phone separation anxiety, another poll by SecurEnvoy found. The fear of being without a cell phone even has had a named coined: nomophobia, as in no mobile phobia.

Another new word has been created to describe that particularly bothersome habit of some addicted cell phone users of snubbing others in a social setting to scroll through their smartphones – phubbing.

Regular checking of smartphone apps is sometimes triggered by boredom, experts say, as users become hooked on mental stimulation. The problem is that the addictive behavior often disrupts observation of important things that are happening in the real environment, sometimes with dire consequences, such as driving accidents.

Inappropriate cell phone use can also become a problem in the work environment and can have implications in hiring, career advancement and workplace efficiency, recent research by University of Southern California found.

Three of four professionals of 550 interviewed in the USC study said checking texts or emails is unacceptable behavior in business meetings. An even higher percentage, 87 percent, said answering a call is rarely or never acceptable in a business meeting.

Women are more likely than men to be offended by inappropriate smartphone use. Far more women than men think it is inappropriate to check texts at a business lunch (66 percent to 41 percent).

The study found that mobile manners vary by gender, age and region. Not surprisingly, Millennials and younger professionals are more likely to be accepting of smartphone use than their older co-workers.

“But they might be doing themselves a disservice,” says USC researcher Peter Cardon. “In many situations, they rely on those older than them for career advancement. Hiring managers often cite courtesy as among the most important soft skills they notice. By focusing on civility, young people entering the workforce may be able to set themselves apart.”

The key to cell phone etiquette is to use common sense and common courtesy. As with a landline, keep private conversations private. Speak softly and be aware that strangers are not interested in your private conversations – and you very well may be bothering them.

In meetings, at meals or in social gatherings, keep in mind that not every phone call you receive is an emergency. Be courteous and attentive to the people you are with. It is best to turn off your phone during these times or at the very least disregard non-essential calls until later. No one likes to be interrupted or ignored. Treat others as you would like to be treated.

The following seven cell phone etiquette tips are recommended by etiquette trainer Rachel Wagner:

1. Give 100 percent focus to the person in front of you. Don’t interrupt a face-to-face conversation with someone by taking a call or texting. The question to ask yourself is this, “What impression am I making when my attention is diverted to my phone?”

2. At a business lunch, a mobile device shouldn’t be part of the place setting. Keep it stashed in a jacket pocket, handbag or briefcase.

3. In meetings, avoid “reading under the table.” Most people know to turn their phone to silent in a meeting. People who scroll through their emails, check their Facebook page, text, tweet or check sports scores in their laps are noticed more than they think. It’s distracting and discourteous to the speaker and others. Paying attention to phone messages instead of the meeting sends a signal that the people in the room are not important to you. And that’s a dangerous message if those people are clients or have power over your job or career path. You want to appear engaged and a team player. If you are expecting an urgent call, mention it before the meeting begins and then excuse yourself and step away when you take the call. In longer meetings, wait until a break to check emails and phone messages.

4. Have a professional ring tone. Whether it’s your personal cell phone or one issued by your company, a professional ring tone is important to convey a professional image of you.

5. In a cubicle, turn your mobile device to silent. It’s annoying and distracting if your phone rings and you’re there, but it’s more irritating to coworkers if it rings and rings when you’re away from your desk. Let voice mail take the call if you step away for a cup of coffee or a meeting.

6. Take personal calls in a private place. Hearing someone talk loudly on a cell phone, especially about personal business, is distracting and discourteous to coworkers trying to do their jobs. It’s best to go to an empty conference room or other private location to make a personal call. And do keep personal calls to a minimum so that you don’t appear unfocused to your team or your boss.

7. Never use your cell phone in the restroom. This is not the place to share personal or confidential company or client information. You never know who might be in listening range.

Technology and good manners can mix – cell phone etiquette just has some catching up to do.