The new rules for today’s tools

As a girl, one of my favorite excursions was going to my grandma’s cabin on Whidbey Island. It was somewhat rustic and had just enough amenities to make it comfortable but still somewhat of an adventure.

telephoneThe cabin did have a phone, but it had a shared line. So, when you picked up the phone you might hear a neighbor talking and you’d have to hang up and wait until the line was clear. You’d then have the operator place the call for you. And, when you called someone who wasn’t home there was no voicemail system to take a message. You just hung up and tried again. Or, if it was really important you walked or drove to the person’s house because there was no email or text messaging. And, when people called us there was no caller ID to let us know who was trying to reach us. We just had to answer the phone to discover who was calling.

Oh how times have changed. Today we are connected to everyone 24/7 whether we want to be or not. If someone doesn’t reply to an email we text them or instant message them. Voicemail has almost become an old fashioned tool.

It is indeed a new world and with it are rules that govern our new tools, whether smart phones, email or social media. Here are some etiquette guidelines for these tools.

  • When you’re with others, don’t answer your phone, text, read email or otherwise focus on your phone unless you are doing something together on your device. However, if you’re on the phone and someone walks up to you, the person on the phone has priority. Finish your call and then give the person in front of you your attention.
  • Keep your phone off the table in meetings. It signals to the people you’re meeting with that the phone is more important than them. It will also compel you to look at it and possibly pick it up when it lights up, beeps or buzzes.
  • Avoid texting clients or hiring managers unless they’ve opted into communicating with you via texts or they text you first. Even then be cautious. Text messages are very casual and not very professional. If you do text a client or anyone who isn’t a close friend, be sure to start with your name so that if you’re not in the person’s contact list he will know who the message is from. Avoid using abbreviations or other text-speak in business communications.
  • Don’t invite clients, coworkers or bosses to be friends with you on Facebook. Invite them to connect on LinkedIn instead.
  • If someone leaves you a voice mail message listen to it before calling them back.
  • Pay attention to business hours. Never text or call a business contact after business hours, typically that’s 6:00 PM. For friends, don’t do any of the above after 9:00 PM.
  • Don’t post anything that you wouldn’t be comfortable seeing on the front page of the New York Times or that you wouldn’t want to be able to google in 10 years. Everything you write online is there forever.

The new world has many advantages, but I must admit, I sometimes miss the simplicity of life before our digital tools ruled our lives. Maybe it’s time to institute digital free Tuesdays or something like that in our household. Stay tuned.





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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 >>

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