The smart phone disease

Elevator Cell PhoneWhy is it that we dislike it when others use their phone when they are meeting with us, in a movie theater or driving, yet so often we do the same? I think it’s because the allure of the phone is often too much to ignore. Research has shown we get a dopamine hit when we answer a text or look at Twitter on the phone. No wonder it’s hard to ignore.

July is National Cell Phone Courtesy month – a time to recognize the importance of using our digital devices respectfully. Here are some tips to help you avoid the lure of your phone and stay in the good graces of your coworkers, clients and friends.

Don’t be tempted
It’s hard to ignore a ringing phone, or that beep, buzz or chime. We instinctively want to address it. To avoid the temptation to look at your phone when meeting with others silence your phone and put it away where you can’t see it.

Make the person in front of you your priority
The person or people in front of you should be your focus, not your phone. It is very disrespectful to look at or answer your phone when you are in the company of others. It’s like turning your back and ignoring them. Silence your phone and stash it before your meeting.

Wait to eat that donut
Whether it’s a client or a friend no one likes hearing you eat or slurp in their ear. A Clise Etiquette newsletter reader vented in an email to me, “I don’t know what people are thinking when they are chawing away on the phone while talking but I immediately want to hang-up on them. Do people just feel that comfortable doing this because they know you?”  He has a good point. Whether you know the person you’re talking to or not, wait until you’re finished with the call to consume anything.

Excuse yourself
When you are meeting with others and are expecting an important call, let those you’re with know when you sit down that an important call may come in. If it does, excuse yourself and take it away from the group so as to not disturb them.

Focus on your kids
Are you letting your phone take precedence over your child? There are studies that show how damaging it is to a child’s social development when they don’t get their parent’s attention and social cues. By focusing on your phone in the presence of your child he will not learn appropriate body language and conversation skills. Treat your child like you would a VIP. Stash your phone and give him your full attention. Not only do kids crave it, they need it to learn to be socially appropriate and comfortable children and adults.

Don’t be a distracted driver
I know we hear this all the time and I also know how tempting it is to look at your phone or send a quick text when you’re driving. I have been guilty of this. But, what helps me to not be tempted is to silence my phone and put it in my purse. I remind myself that nothing is more important than my safety. When I take my eyes off the road it only takes a second to get into an accident. Is that text or phone call really worth your life or the lives of others? I don’t think so.

According to you are 23 times more likely to get into an accident when you text and drive. There is an app called Safely Go that will block calls and texts that come in while you’re driving or in a meeting. Instead, it will tell everyone but your three pre-programmed VIP contacts that you’re on the road and driving safely, through automatic text replies. Sounds like a great app to me.

Be present
When you are in a theater or performance of any sort, don’t text, check your email or look up the latest sports score. The light on your phone is distracting to others. And, remember why you are at the movie or play in the first place – to enjoy it. Turn your phone off and put it away so that you can be present for the performance and not bother others.

I challenge you to put your phone away when meeting with others or driving for just one month. You might be surprised how free and focused you feel. And, I know people will think more highly of you. Who doesn’t want that?

Readers, what smart phone practices irk you? Are there things you know you shouldn’t do but have a hard time stopping?


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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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