My companion in seat 3B on the early morning flight from San Francisco to New York was in a tizzy. "I don't care what he thinks," he huffed. "Tell him I need that proposal by tomorrow morning at 9 a.m." His tirade went on loudly for a good 15 minutes before the flight attendant made the "turn off all electronic devices" announcement, and even then she had to ask him three times to hang up.
I wish I could say that this was an infrequent occurrence, but I can't. How often do you find yourself subjected to other people's private conversations in a public place? Jacqueline Whitmore, author of Poised for Success and founder of National Cellphone Courtesy Month, says that in her experience, cellphone abuse is rampant in business today, and that the lack of creating boundaries around when it's time to turn them off is having a dramatic effect on entrepreneurs' personal lives.
As someone who works with entrepreneurs and often does business on the road or in public places, I find cellphone etiquette is lacking.
The next time you are tempted to whip out your cellphone and passionately preach to a co-worker about the benefits of your latest great idea, stop and consider the following:
1. Monkey see, monkey do.
According to a paper published in the Human Ethology Bulletin, the act of pulling out a cellphone is a contagious behavior and may influence those around you to do the same. The next time you are in a meeting, at a client dinner or even with friends, ask yourself if you'd rather be a ringleader for chatting on the phone or connecting with those in front of you.
2. Your phone makes you less popular.
Basic good manners require you to be mindful of your surroundings and either set your phone to vibrate, or better yet, not answer when in a movie theater, place of worship, public forum or courtroom. But beyond this obvious advice, remember that as someone who represents the face of your company, you want to make the people in front of you feel like they have your total attention.
In fact recent studies at the University of Essex show that cellphone use can be harmful to our relationships with others. One finding indicates that just having a cellphone close at hand -- even if you aren't checking it -- can be harmful to your interpersonal connections.
3. Stop embarrassing yourself.
It never ceases to amaze me how in the heat of the moment, people forget that they are in a public place and begin discussing confidential information within ear-shot of everyone and their mother.
If you are engaged in a conversation that is turning highly emotional, or is likely to, find someplace private to take the call. Displaying anger in public makes you look unprofessional and others around you feel embarrassed and uncomfortable.
Make the effort to schedule calls for when you know you're in a private place. Many public spaces such as airplanes, hospitals and theaters have rules prohibiting or limiting cellphone use. The best strategy is to plan your calls for times when you can be in a private location without disturbing everyone around you.
4. Don't cell yell.
On a landline, your voice gets amplified by a microphone in the receiver and sent to your earpiece, allowing you to hear the true volume at which you are speaking. On a cellphone, there is no magnification into the earpiece, so you only register the volume coming from your mouth. Most of us simply don't realize how loudly we talk when on our phones. Avoid cell yell and use a conversational tone when speaking on a cellphone.