Here’s a vote in support of cellphone courtesy. Your phone — more precisely, how you use your phone — says a lot about you. Courtesy expert Sharon Schweitzer advises, for example, that phones ought to be kept out of sight during business meetings, while you’re out on a date or hanging out casually with friends. “Keeping it visible sends the clear message that your date, family, and friends are not your No. 1 priority,” Schweitzer said. Keeping your phone out and ready sends the message that your date, family or friends are less important than whomever might call you.
There are exceptions, of course. Occasionally we all find ourselves waiting for an important call. Maybe it’s from the doctor’s office we’re waiting to talk to.
If that’s the situation, when you accept an emergency call, quietly and calmly excuse yourself from the gathering with an apology. Schweitzer suggests saying something such as, “I apologize, however, this is urgent, please excuse me. I hope to return in a moment.”
Try turning off your phone before meetings, meals, and meaningful moments — like dates, Schweitzer said. If you can’t turn off your phone, turn it to silent or vibrate.
Other suggestions from Schweitzer:
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.
Don’t think of your phone as a social crutch. If you’re alone at an event such as a reception and don’t know anyone, immediately pulling out your phone will likely ensure you’ll be alone with your phone the rest of the evening. First try to engage others personally.
The next suggestion isn’t based on courtesy, but is all about safety: Never drive and talk. Cellphone conversations can be extremely distracting. If it’s entirely necessary to use the phone, drive to a safe area away from traffic. Your vehicle might have integrated hands-off, Bluetooth technology. If that’s the case, remember that your first responsibility is safety. You might think that your car’s hands-off technology allows you to talk and drive safely, but be honest with yourself.
If the content of the call is urgent and important, you probably would be wise to pull over and park safely so your full attention can be on the call.