July is Cell Phone Courtesy Month

With the ubiquity of smartphones and other electronic devices, our “techno-etiquette” seems to be declining.

In honor of National Cell Phone Courtesy Month, Jacqueline Whitmore, one of the nation’s foremost experts on etiquette and protocol, offers these steps for wireless phone users who want to avoid offending others:

Be all there. When you’re in a meeting, performance, courtroom or other busy area, let calls go to voicemail to avoid a disruption. In some instances, turning your phone off may be the best solution.

Keep it private. Be aware of your surroundings and avoid discussing private or confidential information in public. You never know who may be in hearing range.

Keep your cool. Don’t display anger during a public call. Conversations that are likely to be emotional should be held where they will not embarrass or intrude on others.

Learn to vibe. Use your wireless phone’s silent or vibration settings in public places such as business meetings, religious services, schools, restaurants, theaters or sporting events so that you do not disrupt your surroundings.

Avoid “cell yell.” Remember to use your regular conversational tone when speaking on your wireless phone. People tend to speak more loudly than normal and often don’t recognize how distracting they can be to others.

Follow the rules. Some places, such as hospitals or airplanes, restrict or prohibit the use of mobile phones, so adhere to posted signs and instructions. Some jurisdictions may also restrict mobile phone use in public places.

Excuse yourself. If you are expecting a call that can’t be postponed, alert your companions ahead of time and excuse yourself when the call comes in; the people you are with should take precedence over calls you want to make or receive.

Send a message. Use text messaging to send and receive messages without saying a single word.

Watch and listen discreetly. New multimedia applications such as streaming video and music are great ways to stay informed and access the latest entertainment. However, adjust the volume based on your surroundings in much the same way that you would adjust your ringer volume. Earphones are a great way to avoid distracting others in public areas.

Alert silently. When using your phone’s walkie-talkie feature, send the person you’re trying to reach a call alert before starting to speak. If you’re around other people, turn off your phone’s external speaker and use the vibration setting to minimize any disturbance and to respect your contact’s privacy.

Be a good Samaritan. Use your cellphone to help others. According to CTIA, The Wireless Association, more than 224,000 calls a day are made to 911 and other emergency numbers by mobile phone users who report crimes and potentially life-threatening emergencies.

Focus on driving. Practice wireless responsibility while driving. Don’t make or answer calls while in heavy traffic or in hazardous driving conditions. Place calls when your vehicle is not moving, and use a hands-free device to help focus attention on safety. Always make safety your most important call.

Spread the word. Discuss cellphone manners with friends and family members. Tell them that you are practicing new wireless phone etiquette rules and offer to share them.

Convenience and complications

Nicole Daughhetee

Nicole Daughhetee

By Nicole Daughhetee, Courier Staff

I have a photograph on my phone that I saved because I was blown away by the fact that the sign I captured on ‘film’ even had to be written or posted on the wall in the examination room of my children’s pediatrician office.

The sign read: “It is greatly appreciated if you will refrain from talking on your cellphone while medical staff is in the room with your child. Thank you!”

My initial rhetorical response is a question not fit to print, so I ask this instead … Seriously? The staff at Easley Pediatrics really had to post that sign for parents?

I don’t know about anyone else, but when I am at the pediatrician’s office with my children, it is typically because they are so ill that I could not take care of them myself at home or treat whatever is ailing them with over-the-counter remedies.

My mood might be one of worry or concern for my child’s health and well-being. As a parent, I welcome the opportunity to communicate with my child’s physician and to proffer any information that might be relevant for a diagnosis of the malady and recommendation of the best treatment options.

Even if my child isn’t suffering some awful illness, if we are there for a wellness check-up, it is still essential that I am able to help my child answer questions and provide the doctor with any information he or she might need for record purposes.

The pediatrician’s office — specifically a medical examination room — hardly seems the place for one to make business or personal phone calls. In my mind, this very notion should be a matter of common sense and not something that needs to be suggested — in big, bold, black letters — for parents or caretakers to read.

When I was growing up, cellphones did not exist. In my home, we had a telephone (one with a rotary dial) hanging on the wall in our kitchen. When I was in high school, I begged my mom to buy one of the extra-long cords that connected the base to the receiver so I could stretch into my bedroom and close my door for much-needed adolescent privacy.

Those days are long gone, and it seems like everyone these days has a cellphone and wouldn’t possibly know how to exist without such devices in their grasp during every waking hour of the day.

I will be the first person to admit that I find having a cellphone incredibly convenient in most circumstances. I’ve never been a big phone “talker” or conversationalist, and my penchant for writing makes the text feature of my phone incredibly appealing to me. At times when I may not be able to speak on a phone, being able to send a text message comes in handy. But there is a time and a place for everything.

And as much as I love anything — cheesecake comes to mind — too much of a good thing is never, well, good.

Technology, and the ability to communicate with anyone 24-7, certainly has its benefits and advantages, but it can also be an annoyance — even deadly — when phones are over-utilized or used without the exercise of common sense or common courtesy.

I cannot tell you how many times I have gone out for dinner with my daughters and my mom, and while we are sitting around a table talking about the day’s events, the family next to us is sitting in silence because each member of the unit is holding his or her own personal cell-phone to communicate with someone else, play a game or surf the net.

I always find it so sad that at a time in our history when families rarely sit down to eat together, when they do they don’t communicate or even look at one another because their attention is absorbed into a teeny-tiny hand-held screen made of nothing remotely human.

There are times when I will be sitting on the front porch while the girls are playing in the yard or swimming in the pool, and I will turn my attention to what sounds like shouting. I find myself looking around to see which of my neighbors have finally snapped and might be fist-fighting in their front yards. But this is never the case. It is usually someone walking, I assume for the benefits of fitness, however, the individual cannot seem to forego 30 minutes of his or her day without a cell phone glued to an ear.

When I write pieces such as these, I feel like an 80-year-old woman who is completely out of touch with the current generation, but I’m not. I am old enough to remember a time when the world was a little bit simpler — a time when people actually conversed with one another face-to-face — a time when they simply got in their cars to drive from point A to point B without trying to type a message on a minuscule screen while at the same time following the traffic patterns, holding the steering wheel at 10 and 2 o’clock and being able to react to a changing traffic light with plenty of notice because they have — now here’s a concept — actually been paying attention to the road while driving instead of playing with a cellphone.

I am elated to report that I am not the only fuddy-duddy who feels this way about the über over-use of cellular technology.

Jacqueline Whitmore, author, blogger and President of The Protocol School of Palm Beach, Fla., has made a career of helping organizations and individuals master the finer points of business etiquette, and in 2002, she officially founded National Cell Phone Courtesy Month with the intent of making cell phone users more respectful of their surroundings.

“Wireless phones and other electronic devices have become so important to keeping people in touch with information they want and need,” said Whitmore. “It’s important to educate people about the proper way to use these devices so that they’re still in touch, but not annoying those around them.”


Would you pass the cell phone etiquette quiz?

1. When talking on a wireless phone in public, you:

a. Talk loudly. Cellphone connections are not that good.

b. Get caught up in the conversation and do not realize how loud you are talking.

c. Talk in a normal tone. Cellphone technology is so good that a whisper could be heard on the other end.

2. When entering a movie theater, you:

a. Turn your phone off or place it on silent so you will not disrupt others in the audience.

b. Put your phone on vibrate.

c. Keep your phone on its normal ringer, so you do not miss any calls.

3. You are in a meeting and your phone rings, you:

a. Don’t worry about it ringing; you have already set your phone on silent.

b. Take the call. It is more important than the meeting you are in.

c. Remove yourself from the meeting to take the call. You have already alerted your colleagues that you are expecting a call.

4. You are out to dinner with friends at a restaurant and your phone rings, you:

a. Apologize and let the call go to voicemail. Then turn off the ringer.

b. Step outside to take the call. You had already told your friends that you are expecting a call.

c. Take the call at the table.

5. You are in the grocery store and your co-worker alerts you on your Walkie-talkie, you:

a. Let her know that you will contact her in 10 minutes when you’re in the car.

b. Continue the conversation on speaker phone as you shop.

c. You turn off the speaker-phone to continue the conversation.

Cellphone courtesy in the workplace

Set your cell aside at work. You are supposed to be working, not texting your friends about weekend plans. Your boss will not appreciate seeing you texting nonstop, so do yourself a favor, set your phone aside and only check it during breaks.

Put the cell phone on silent. Ever have a cubicle neighbor whose cell phone kept buzzing and ringing all day long? It can get old very quickly, so don’t be that person. Put your phone on silent out of respect for your workspace neighbors, because nobody really wants to hear your Britney Spears ringtone.

Stay focused during meetings. Tablets are very convenient for taking notes during a meeting, but make sure you are actually using it to take notes. Don’t scroll through Facebook or try to beat your Angry Birds high score; pay attention and be respectful to the person speaking.

Log Out. Social media is becoming a bigger and bigger distraction at work — so bad that some companies block the sites completely. If you company doesn’t have social media sites blocked, don’t abuse this privilege by sitting on them all day. During the work day, log off of Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites to avoid the temptation of checking your notifications.

Personal technology should never deter your productivity. In honor of National Cell Phone Courtesy month, follow these tips and make extra effort to be respectful of your boss, company and coworkers.