Is Your Cell Phone Making You Rude?

On most days, I take pride in my cell phone etiquette. I always turn off my phone in movie theaters, rarely let it interrupt a face to face conversation and avoid conversations when they might bother others around me .

Yesterday started out as a day I could have been especially proud of.

While waiting in the allergist’s office, the phone went off in my pocket. As the computerized voice turned into a ring, I headed for the door to have a private conversation in the lobby. Finding the lobby also occupied, I stepped out the front door where I was able to visit privately with the caller.

Whew! The call, and my mission of cell phone courtesy, had both been successful.

It was later in the day at the grocery store when I slid to the other end of the cell phone etiquette spectrum. The phone began ringing while I was visiting with Janet, the mother of one of our son’s good friends.

Almost instinctively, and while Janet was talking, I reached into my pocket, pulled out the phone and glanced down to see who was calling. It was my wife, so I interrupted Janet by saying to her, “This is Linda, I think I’d better take it.”

Janet and I quickly exchanged some niceties, went our separate ways and I got on the phone with my wife. Almost immediately afterwards, my gut was telling me I’d been rude to Janet.

As I reflected on this while shopping, I came up with the following four thoughts as a guide for the future:

  • Meaningful relationships are nourished by face to face conversations. With the ongoing move from “real” conversations to virtual and electronic conversations, it’s more important than ever to make the most of our chance encounters with friends, coworkers and other people we care about. We should relish those exchanges and make the most of the time we have together.
  • Do away with feeling the need to be “always on” 24/7. Face it, a good percentage of our cell phone calls and texts aren’t urgent. The person we’re with should be our priority.
  • Interrupting others is almost always rude. Not much more to say here. Don’t be rude. Don’t interrupt.
  • If we slip up, and know we’ve been rude, we should apologize. Even though I knew Janet probably wasn’t offended by me taking a call from my wife, something in my gut told me it was wrong. As a result, as soon as I got home I called her and apologized. It felt right.

There’s no question that cell phones are great tools for building personal and business relationships via calls and texts, but they can easily tear down a relationship if used incorrectly.

“Courtesy is the one coin you can never have too much of or be stingy with.” John Wanamaker

Question: What cell phone guidelines around courtesy do you use?