Top 7 Tips for Good Cell Phone Manners
Updated: Jun 30
I am convinced we need to start thinking of our phones as a human persona. I do not care if you make it look like your spouse, mother, or college roommate. If we were to add eyes, a nose, hair, and a big smile to the front of our phones, we might begin making the connection that every time we converse with someone via text or email, we are allowing that person to become a part of whatever we are doing.
If I am out for a romantic dinner with my husband, but I continually check my texts, the person on the other end of my phone has now crashed my date, and with my permission. When we are on our cell but the person in our physical presence is speaking with us, what is our natural reaction? Come on, you know. We have all done it. We say, “Go ahead, I’m listening,” while our head is staring at a screen instead of the eyes of the one speaking. By doing this we demonstrate we are not 100% present with the person across the table.
Think of it this way. If I were on a date with my husband, and a friend walked up to our table, would I leave my husband, even just for a few minutes, to spend time with my friend? Of course not. I would not allow my friend to crash my date. Imagine if my husband was in the middle of a sentence and I just walked away. We do not need to be told how rude this is. Not only rude, but hurtful. When we allow our phone to take us away from being present, we cease to remain fully focused on the person we are with.
Neuroscientists have proven splitting our attention among different sources makes us less effective. Contrary to what many of us were taught, multitasking is not productive. When we are talking with someone while simultaneously checking our phone, we become less effective in our listening skills.
These 7 tips will help you manage your cell phone while still staying engaged with your friends!
1. Put your cell on silent/vibrate and leave it in your purse. Only if you are expecting an important update you MUST KNOW NOW should your phone be placed in view of others. According to a researcher recently quoted in the New York Times, when a person checks their phone while in a meeting or social setting, the message they are sending is, “You are less important to me than my cellphone.” Checking your phone while talking with someone else is the same as talking with someone at a party but looking around the room at the same time. Your body language is saying you would rather be spending your time with someone else. Vicky Oliver, author of 301 Smart Answers to Tough Interview Questions, states checking your cell phone when with a group is one of the top habits that can get you fired. “They know that while your butt may be planted in the chair, your mind is roaming,” says Oliver.
2. This tip really correlates to the one above. Keep your cell phone out of sight! An article was published a few years ago and the headline read: Mobile manners: How even putting your phone on the dinner table can convince your friends you don’t care. The piece was about two research studies conducted by Essex University. The researchers found just the presence of a mobile phone on a table, even if not being used, was enough to cause a negative impression of the person to whom the phone belonged. It affected closeness, connection with the individual, and the quality of conversation that took place.
3. If you are waiting on an important message that is time sensitive, most people will understand. It is important you communicate this up front. Say, “I apologize, but I may need to check my cell phone during our meal, because I am waiting for an important text/call from my son’s school.” Place your phone on vibrate and keep it in your lap. When I need to do this, I place my napkin on top of my phone so no one can see it. Out of sight, out of mind! If you do receive the interruption, excuse yourself from the table (if it is a phone call), or quickly check the text and respond. I remind the others at the table, “I apologize for texting, but the important message came in and I need to respond in a timely manner.” Do not get into a back and forth texting conversation. If this needs to take place, excuse yourself from the table, handle your business, and return as quickly as possible. If you have difficulty ignoring your phone every time a text comes through, I recommend using the Do Not Disturb automated text message response. If you have a relationship in your life that texts quite often, you might consider letting them know you will be unavailable for a while. Do whatever works for you but figure out a way to put boundaries around yourself so the use of the cell phone does not affect the quality of your relationships. In a business setting it is also your reputation that is on the line.
4. No one wants to hear your phone call. When you must speak on the phone in public, remove yourself and take your call in private. If you cannot find privacy, step at least 10 feet away so others cannot overhear your conversation. No matter how private we try to keep a call, our body language speaks volumes. Patrons enjoying themselves at a restaurant do not want to be disturbed by watching someone with a contorted face throwing their arms around while arguing with another person on their phone.
5. If you do miss a text or call, once your evening is over, respond quickly to the person. If they are frustrated you did not respond right away, politely say, “I was having dinner with my husband.” No other explanation is needed. There is never a time in life you should be at someone else’s beck and call 24/7. If you have this type of relationship with another person, then they are the one in control of your time. You do not control your own time. The only people I am available for around the clock is my family. Even then, if they text while I am at lunch with someone else, I wait to respond unless it is time sensitive or an emergency. We have a rule in our family if it is an emergency, we pick up the phone and call instead of texting, because we have agreed we will not drop everything to check our texts. Do not let an electronic gadget keep you from being present in the moment with the people you are with.
6. Do not use the cell phone as a crutch. People can be uncomfortable in social settings, and instead of engaging with those around them, they hide in a corner and surf their phone. Although we would not want to live without this technology, the introduction of social media via the cell phone has caused society to lose a large portion of their social skills. This has become such a problem with job-seeking college graduates many universities have brought back basic etiquette and protocol classes to help their students become more successful when trying to enter the work force. Leave your phone in your purse and step out of your comfort zone. Make personal connections with those around you. A little small talk can go a long way!
7. One last tip. When it comes to family dinners at home, I suggest cell phones remain in another room. Or put out a family bucket and have everyone drop their phones in before sitting down. Mealtime around the table is vital to the success and health of our families. Do not let technology damage the precious few moments you have together at the end of a long day. There is not much I find more heartbreaking than observing families at a restaurant where the children, and Mom and Dad, have their heads buried in their phones. Little conversation takes place. Children desperately need quality time with their parents. This is not possible every day, but we should do our best not to squander the time when it does come around. Look at it this way. Imagine if you could spend a full hour, every day having quality dinner time with your child. What if you could do this every week, every year. Yes, I mean you do not miss one meal together until they leave home at 18. Even with all this time, which seems an almost impossible task, that would total only 274 days in the life of that child. Time is fleeting. We do not always need a lot of it to make a big impact, but God also warns us not to waste it. There is not much that is more important than being present for our families.
Together with you,