July is National Cell Phone Courtesy Month.
Now that many of us have emerged from our virtual Covid environment, how do we balance the beauty of technology with real-life engagement?
Sharon Schweitzer is an international culture and etiquette expert and the founder of Access to Culture.
Tips for National Cell Phone Courtesy Month
- Out of sight: Whether you are attending a business meeting, out on a date or in a casual setting with friends, tuck away your phone. Keeping it visible sends the clear message that your date, family, and friends are not your number-one priority.
- Quiet your device: Turn off your phone before meetings, meals, and meaningful moments – like dates! If you can’t turn your phone off, turn it to silent or vibrate.
- Exceptions: There are exceptions to every rule: A) Doctors, nurses, first responders, and health providers B) Those expecting emergency calls C) Those who have an infant with a babysitter or a person with a caregiver D) Those momentarily sharing photos with others E) Those researching an important request, such as directions.
- Excuse me: If accepting an emergency call, excuse yourself as quietly and calmly as possible from the gathering with an apology. For example, “I apologize, however, this is urgent, please excuse me. I hope to return in a moment.”
- Set boundaries: You set the tone of your communications with others. Just because you receive a call or message does not mean you have to respond immediately.
- Consider content carefully: Pause first – once a text, tweet or post is sent, it’s live. Sure, you can delete it, but it’s out there on the Internet, just waiting to bite back. Avoid posting inappropriate images or writing while consuming adult beverages.
- 10-foot rule: When making or taking a call, move 10 feet away from the building including windows. No one wants to see you pacing or gesturing. Step outside when responding to a call while in a house of worship, library, theatre, or hospital. Refrain from confidential conversations while in planes, trains, subways, and automobiles.
- Avoid driving & talking: Many cities ban smartphone use while driving, including Austin, Texas. If you must use the phone, drive to a safe area away from traffic. New vehicle technology comes with integrated hands-off, Bluetooth options. If your vehicle has this technology, be attentive to the road and use caution. Safety first!
- The cellular crutch: Avoid using your phone as a default when you are unsure what to do in uncomfortable situations. If you walk into a new office or a wedding reception and don’t know anyone, take time to engage face-to-face. Defaulting to your phone as a crutch will prevent you from truly connecting with people.