I Can Hear You Loud and Clear

Elevator Cell PhoneI recently asked my Facebook likes how they feel about people talking on cell phones in public places like the grocery store or coffee shop. Several people responded that they hated it and yet some of those same people stated that they do it themselves. I had to admit that if I get a phone call in these places I will sometimes answer it but I tell the caller I will call them back soon. I try to do it very quietly and out of the way of others and never when checking out.

One gal said we should never do it and instead suggested we text the message. Another said it’s rude, plain and simple, and we should never text or call in public. I am fine with texting in public as long as you’re not meeting with anyone, you’re not walking and you’re not doing it while being helped by the cashier. However, the game changes when you’re meeting with someone.

Texting or talking on the phone when meeting with others is absolutely wrong. I have had several occasions now where the person I’m meeting with answers their phone and talks for a few minutes to no one important while I sit there and stare at the table and listen to their half of the conversation. I can’t tell you how uncomfortable it is for me. Usually I get up and busy myself by doing something else to a: send a signal that it’s rude and I won’t sit for this and b: to not have to listen to their conversation.

A friend forwarded me an article in The Seattle Times about why it’s so annoying to hear someone talk on their cell phone. It was based on the research that we can’t tune out what’s called a halfalogue, that is, only half of a conversation. We can tune out a monologue or a two way conversation but not half of a conversation. The article stated: “Researchers believe this is because we can’t predict the speech pattern of a halfalogue the way we can with a monologue or two-way conversation — making it harder to ignore.”

So there you have it, research that states why listening to someone talk on their cell phone is so annoying. My advice; put your cell phone on silence and put it away anytime you are with people. If you MUST make or take a call, do it away from others and keep your voice down.

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Arden Clise is founder and president of Clise Etiquette. Her love for business etiquette began in previous jobs when she was frequently asked for etiquette, public speaking and business attire advice by executives and board members. The passion for etiquette took hold and compelled Arden to start a consulting business to help others. Read more >>


  1. Carole on May 27, 2010 at 11:47 am

    The only time I find cell phone use annoying or rude is when someone is talking loudly–louder than they would if they were having a conversation with someone sitting next to them (annoying), or when they are interupting such as when working with a cashier or are already in a meeting (rude! really rude!). I have also noticed that when I ignore my cell phone in an effort to be neither rude or annoying that people are uncomfortable and want you to answer it. (“damned if you do, damned if you don’t!)

    Basically, everyone seems to be a little over-sensitive about cell phone use. We all have cell phones, we’re all using them, so they’re here to stay. We all need to both change our behavior (and not be rude or annoying) and to be more acceptable of those around us in general–maybe they have a good reason to by annoying or maybe they are rude. So what? It’s on them.

    Another way to view the research cited above it that it indicates that we’re all just plain selfish and have to be included in everything around us or we’re miffed. Further while we think it’s rude when someone else does it, individually we want people to understand when we do it because we have some plausible, forgiveable reason.

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