The Top 5 “Phone Pas” and How to Avoid Them

Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.

 -Emily Post

Let’s be honest, if you lived all the way out in the middle of nowhere, let’s say in a cabin in the woods, following proper etiquette wouldn’t really make a difference in your daily life. The thing is, the majority of us don’t spend our days in isolation. Most of us are commuting on crowded city buses, studying in a quiet library or, when we’re lucky, dining in romantic restaurants. For the majority of our day we are surrounded by people and this is precisely the reason we all (well most of us) follow some pretty basic rules on how to behave in public. We hold doors open for others, say “please” and “thank you” and whisper discreetly at the movies when we just don’t get the plot line.  But for some reason these seemingly fundamental rules of engagement tend to fall out the window when we pull out our beloved smartphones.  So, to help you become the Emily Post of mobile phones we’ve put together a list of the top 5 “Phone Pas” that you need to know.

#1 Look where you’re going

Sounds obvious right?  Actually the mobile phone zombie walk has become so common place that Chongqing, a city in China, has introduced a dedicated ‘phone lane’ for texting pedestrians.  Now, let’s take this same scenario and take away the phone.  Imagine walking down the street not paying attention to anyone or anything around you. After the first distracted bump you’d most likely apologize and continue on your journey with extra care. But, add in the phone and we quickly trade off our manners for tweets.  Instead of paving and painting new texting lanes, I think we’re all in agreement that it’s easier and more cost effective just to keep our heads up.

#2 Don’t “phub” people

Yep, ignoring people while you use your phone now has a term.  It’s called “phubbing” and it isn’t cool. Coined by James A. Roberts, a professor of Marketing at Baylor University, “phubbing” is a combination of the words “phone” and “snubbing.” Unless it’s an emergency call or text, the person in front of you should take priority.  This is especially true when interacting with sales associates, baristas and cashiers.  Hang up or ask your friend to hold while you complete your transaction.  This tells the human being who’s serving you that you don’t see them as invisible, or worse, as a vending machine.  Ordering coffee or checking out at the grocery store takes five minutes.  Spend that five being present with the people helping you out.

#3 Keep your phone off the table

How many times have we seen people dining together at a restaurant or cafe and one or more of them are thumbing away at their smartphones? It’s important to remember that dinner conversation does not mean on your phone.  This goes for home too. The dinner table is where families get together and talk about their day or their plans.  It’s a touchstone for communication that keeps everyone in the loop and connected emotionally.  Put aside your FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) and take the time to be present with those around you at the table. Tweets and Facebook posts can wait. Seriously, they can.

#4 Put your phone on vibrate

The best part about having a mobile phone? The fact that you can reach and be reached by anyone at anytime, anywhere. The worst part? Well, it’s actually the very same answer. Unless you’re psychic and quick at the draw, your phone will definitely ring at the most inappropriate moment in the most inappropriate place.  Avoid the awkward ring and the resulting dirty looks by setting the phone on silent or vibrate in classrooms, churches, libraries, cinemas and doctor’s offices. Oh and don’t forget to find a discreet place to take the call if you choose to answer.

#5 Keep it down but not dirty

When we’re on our cell phones it’s easy to forget we’re not alone. Back in the day all of our phone conversations were contained to the privacy of the home and when we did need to make a call in public there were these things called phone booths.  If you were born after 2000, you might want to google it. Phone booths allowed people to talk in public with a little bit of privacy and isolation.  Mobile phones don’t offer the same fortress of solitude so remember when in public your call is open for all to hear…whether they like it or not. Best keep the volume down and the conversation clean.

So there you have it.  Follow these five basic tips and you’ll be communicating with class, but most importantly you won’t be rushing to silence your phone at a funeral.

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