7 Rules of Smartphone Etiquette

by Jan Fletcher on February 12, 2013
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Rude cell phone users are everywhere. The lure of constant connectivity often proves too much for the average person to resist, yours truly included. Think our behavior isn’t that bad? Consider this: Nearly 60 percent of all U.S. smartphone owners say they can’t go an hour without looking at their devices.

Rebecca R. Hastings, an online manager and editor for the Society for Human Resource Management, told Kelly Services in 2008 that “cell phones are the cigarettes of this decade.” Making other people suffer your impoliteness on the phone is (still, in this decade) akin to blowing secondhand smoke in their faces.

To avoid offending anyone, follow these seven basic rules of smartphone etiquette:

1. Silence your phone during meetings. This is obvious advice, but why do so many of us fail to take it? There is no valid excuse for using a phone during a business meeting. Put it on mute or vibrate — or better yet, turn it off. If your phone vibrates while sitting on a tabletop, it’s almost as bad as the ringer going off.

2. Remove your Bluetooth device during face-to-face interactions. That pulsing blue light it emits is distracting to others.

3. Avoid goofy ringtones. If you forget to silence your ringer before the meeting starts, don’t compound the error by broadcasting an attention-getting ringtone that will likely prove annoying to 98 percent of the general population.

4. Don’t use your phone as a watch. You picked up your phone to check the time — and, next thing you know, you’re reading your email and checking the latest weather report. You’re also oblivious to the irritated glances of your co-workers. This scenario happens all too frequently, says blogger Suchitra Kamath.

5. Respect those within earshot. Your favorite eatery is not your remote office. Don’t treat it like one, which will annoy other patrons. Be cautious when discussing business matters (from proprietary information to run-of-the-mill gossip) over the phone in public places. You may be overheard by others.

6. Control the urge to check your messages. Lydia Ramsey, a business etiquette expert, recounts how a department head — after concluding his portion of a team interview with a prospective hire — started to check his messages. “As if that wasn’t egregious enough, he then proceeded to text replies,” Ramsey says. “If an elephant had walked in[to] the room and taken a seat at that moment, it would not have been more noticeable.” She says the candidate declined the job offer.

7. Dispense with the bling. This morsel of advice is from Diane Gottsman, a protocol and etiquette expert, who coaches executives on good manners. Gottsman, who founded the Protocol School of Texas, says crystal-saturated, flashy smartphone covers detract from your professional appearance.

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