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Blog

World of Etiquette: Cell Phones

Suzanne Pollak

This is the first installment in our World of Etiquette series exploring the art of how to conduct oneself on a daily basis. Etiquette is for life, not just special occasions.

First of All, a Few Words on CELL PHONES...

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Today, the worst etiquette clearly involves the cell phone. People are simply ungovernable when it comes to their phones! Be aware of how the phone takes up just as much space as a person. Effectively you are inviting everyone you could contact to the table.

In BUSINESS, ever meet someone for lunch and the first thing out of their mouth is “I am expecting a call” as they put their phone on the table face up? No. Instead, preface answering with, “I am sorry, I hate to do this. This call will be very quick.” Having the phone on the table means you are not being fully present. This leads to a feeling of having forgotten what’s said, or of not being a good listener. No one is good at listening to two things at the same time. It doesn’t happen, and even if it does, it’s rude! Give your company your full attention. Be present.

(P.S. Don’t think we don’t know when you are reading your Apple watch! When you get a message and look at the watch, we know you are not looking at the time. It’s very awkward for the other person, but they cannot say anything.)

When it comes to FAMILY,

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High school students and young adults have reported to the Academy that they won’t talk to their parents until they put their phones away. Kids will walk out of the room until said parent puts down their cell, lest they have to repeat things twice. Perhaps your children are more cognizant of core manners then you might suspect. As tech develops, kids are surprised to discover their parents are rude. It’s impolite to have a phone at the dinner table, especially when it pings with every new notification.

FYI Parents without a clue: you can turn off these alerts, app by app, so everything isn’t buzzing constantly. Notice that younger folks only turn on the ones they need to know. Keep the phone on silent, with no vibration either. Better yet, shut it down completely. When the dinging is going on, it agitates and makes people feel anxious. Is this what you want to do to those around you? 

For their part, parents have shared their rules of no phone in the car because that’s when a lot of the best conversations takes place. With kids and their friends all using their cells, the parent might feel like an Uber driver.

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Finally, FRIENDS: so what is the criteria? When is it okay to check something on your phone -- while watching a show together? Yes, then it’s okay to check your phone. You don’t need your friend’s undivided attention for that interaction. But if you were out to dinner, it is not okay. Whenever you are one on one, or at a party, do not check your phone.

Different places may require different thinking. In New York City people rely on their phones to check trains, pull up the map to get fastest way. Yet we have noticed that people are slowly becoming more mindful of their technology usage and consumption. Do not check the phone because you are bored, as if it were such an awful thing to be! The Academy feels that no one is bored anymore and that is bad news, because it cuts out daydreaming.