Mobile Manners

Yesterday I sat in a workshop listening to a fascinating speaker. Entertaining, meaningful, and relevant, the man had the entire room glued to his every word. Until, that is, we were all startled by the loud ring of someone’s cell phone.

While it isn’t all that unusual to forget to turn off one’s cell phone, most people would have simply turned off their phone, and conveyed their apologies. But, no such luck in this case. 

Not at all embarrassed when everyone turned and stared, the workshop participant simply proceeded to answer the phone with a very loud, “Hello”.

It soon became apparent that this elderly gentleman was not only rude in terms of thinking he needed to answer his phone in the middle of the session and then carry on a conversation, he was also somewhat hard of hearing. While everyone in the room, including the speaker, struggled to stay focused, the guy on the phone kept talking. Managing to ignore the glares from the 75 plus participants in the room, he proceeded to carry on an annoyingly loud conversation for a number of minutes before he eventually got up and, talking as he walked, went out of the room to finish the call.

Let me be clear. I think cell phones rank up there with the invention of panti-house and sliced bread because as we all know, cell phones play an amazing role in keeping us safe and connected. It’s clearly not technology and its many benefits that are the issue. It is instead people and their lack of manners.

Rude use of cell phones seems to be out of control. People have reported phones ringing at weddings and funerals, job interviews, and even during surgical procedures. No event seems to be immune. New York City Council actually had to pass a bylaw banning cell phone use during “any indoor theater, library, museum, gallery, motion picture theater, concert hall or building in which theatrical, musical, dance, motion picture, lecture or other similar performances are exhibited.”  Violators risk being fined.

Clearly it’s time to get serious about mobile manners. Here are some suggestions gathered from the experts.

Don’t use loud and annoying ring tones that destroy concentration and eardrums.

Use an earpiece in high-traffic or noisy locations. That will let you hear how loud you sound at the other end so you can modulate your voice.

Try to maintain at least a ten foot or about a three metre zone from anyone while talking. Tell callers when you are talking on a cell phone so they can anticipate distractions or disconnections.

Modulate your voice. Cell phones have sensitive microphones that can pick up a very soft voice while blocking out ambient noise. Yelling into a cell phone is rarely necessary. When people are nearby, be considerate and keep your voice low, your tone even and unemotional, and your conversation private. Emotional conversations, arguing, or airing dirty laundry in public are never acceptable.

Avoid personal conversations when others can hear you. Intimate public settings such as elevators, restaurants, public restrooms, dentist or doctors’ waiting rooms, buses, or anywhere a private conversation is not possible is a bad place for a cell phone conversation. To practice good cell phone etiquette, put the ringer on vibrate or silent mode and let the call roll over to voice mail. If it’s an important call, step outside or to a private area to return the call. If that’s not possible and you must take the call, keep your voice low and the conversation brief. Let the caller know you’ll get back to them when you’re able.

When the lights are out, your phone should be off. Phones should be turned off in movie theatres, playhouses, or any other public place that is designed to transport the imagination of the audience.

Lastly, love the one you’re with by being fully present and refusing to take calls when you’re with someone else. It’s rude to interrupt conversations, meetings, or social engagements with others by taking calls or reading texts or emails.

In the end, cell phone etiquette is just a matter of being considerate of others, and that pays off for everyone.

Posted on 02-06-12


Yes! I couldn’t agree more…  I don’t quite understand the compulsion for people to always answer their cell phones.  I’m curious to see what people think about texting as I find that equally rude!

•Posted by Janet Naclia  on  02/07/12  at  09:27 AM

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