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Cell-abrate Proper Phone Etiquette

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CHICAGO — I continue to be astonished at the lack of etiquette regarding use of the cellphone, a device that has become commonplace in the workplace. No matter if you are in an office, the airport, a social environment or just sitting down with your family at dinner, you should show common courtesy and follow proper etiquette.

I heard recently on a national TV show that experts seem to think cellphone use will soon be the major cause of divorce or relationship break-ups. Think about it: during the day or evening, how many times do you break the 10 cellphone etiquette rules that I have listed here?

  1. Lower your voice when talking on cellphones in public. Observe the 10-foot rule; if someone is within 10 feet of you, move to a different location to create some space between you and the other person. Use the technique practiced in the Orient: cup your hand over your phone and mouth when talking on your cell.
  2. No one, I repeat, no one wants to hear your personal business or issues, so avoid talking about those topics when others can listen in.
  3. Avoid taking cellphone calls when you are speaking with someone face to face, unless you think the call you’re receiving may be related to an emergency. In that case, ask the person with whom you are speaking to excuse themselves, or ask them if it would be OK if you took the call.
  4. Avoid texting during face-to-face conversations or during conference calls (believe me, this happens). FYI: Others can actually tell if you are texting.
  5. You’re using a cellphone, not a landline, so be mindful of the technology. All cellphones have latency, which means there is a delay—some greater than others—when you speak and others hear you.
  6. Avoid leaving lengthy voice mails. Simply leave your number, the time of your call, and the issue you’re calling about (be brief).
  7. Place your cellphone in silent mode if you are at a conference, theater or restaurant. If you are having dinner with your family, turn it off!
  8. Drive now. Talk later. Multitasking isn’t always a good thing. Evidence shows that accidents are on the rise due to cellphone use. Most calls can wait until you’ve reached your destination, and if a call is upsetting or distracting, pull over to have the conversation.
  9. Use common sense. Turn off your phone before a job interview, presentation or boardroom meeting. Leave it off at funerals, weddings or anyplace where a quiet atmosphere is mandated, such as a courthouse, library, museum or place of worship. Do not talk on your phone when you are in a public restroom.
  10. If you walk around at work or at a trade show with a hands-free device attached to your ear, you impress no one (except maybe an alien who is observing and laughing from afar). Hands-free devices should be used at times when you don’t have the ability to pick up or hold your phone, such as when you are driving a vehicle. Do not engage anyone in a conversation when it seems you are wired to places unknown; this is very distracting.

When it comes right down to it, proper cellphone etiquette is just a matter of being considerate of others.

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Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Matt Poe at [email protected].