Recently, my husband Jon and I decided to take advantage of some miles we had and treat ourselves to a resort hotel on the Big Island of Hawaii. We were weary from work and the relentless stimulation of technology that accompanied it. Our plan was to spend a whole lot of time by the pool — and very little talking on a cell phone, e-mailing or watching television.
By the second day, I could already feel myself getting into the rhythm of the islands as I sat ocean-side in the Jacuzzi, my head resting on a foam pillow, my hand holding a piña colada — paradise found.
Like a scene out of a totally clichéd Hollywood movie, my eyes were closed and the sound of crashing waves washed over me. Then, a cell phone rang. The man next to me picked it up and began screaming at his stockbroker — paradise lost.
My, how the times have changed. Remember the good old days when there was just a smoking or non-smoking section? Apparently, under the current umbrella of social correctness, you can’t smoke at either pool (which I personally appreciate), but you can annoy your fellow vacationers — at least one of them.
According to the ABC Web site, one ABC News “20/20” survey found that 87 percent of Americans said they have encountered people talking on cell phones in public places in a loud or annoying manner. Slightly less than 4 out of 10 often experience generally rude or disrespectful behavior, cursing, near-cursing or people interrupting conversations to text, send an e-mail or talk on their cell phone.
Jacqueline Whitmore, author of “Business Class: Etiquette Essentials for Success at Work” and President of The Protocol School of Palm Beach, Inc., has made a career of helping organizations and individuals master the finer points of business etiquette.
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,” says 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.” According to Whitmore, wireless phone users can take these steps to avoid offending others:
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. Send a message. Use Text Messaging to send and receive messages without saying a single word.
9. 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.
10. 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.
Karen Leland is author of the recently released books Watercooler Wisdom: How Smart People Prosper In the Face of Conflict, Pressure and Change and Time Management In An Instant:60 Ways to Make the Most of Your Day. She is the co-creator of a new line of Productivity Pads from Time Tamer™ and the co-founder of Sterling Consulting Group and its subsidiary Sterling Marketing Group. You can follow her on twitter at kfleland. For questions, comments or to book Karen to speak at your next event, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.