Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Ladies Finishing School- Using Your Cell Phone

Of course, all of the issues discussed yesterday also apply to cellular phone use. There are, however, certain rules that are unique to cell phones. Emily Post describes cell phones as "an obvious boon to communication." With cell phones we have the security of knowing we’re able to get in touch with anyone on the spur of the moment, and that anyone can reach us (this may also be a downside to cell phones!).

The problem starts with having to listen to someone’s “jabbering” in public. By invading everyone else’s space, she shows herself unaware that the people around her still exist. Cell phone etiquette is still evolving and it’s situational, but virtually all situations call for you to avoid being intrusive, especially in public places.

  • If you must make the call, speak as quietly as you can.
  • Turn off the ringer. Switch to vibrating mode and check your caller ID or capture your messages via voice mail.
  • Keep calls as short as possible; the longer the call, the greater the irritation in those who have no choice but to listen.

The where of a cell phone conversation is an important consideration.

On the street
Don’t shout into your phone while walking outdoors. Watch out for others on a crowded sidewalk and take special care when crossing the street. If you wear a headset for safety reason, be aware that suddenly breaking into a monologue can startle anyone who hasn’t noticed your mike. (This has happened to me—it’s jarring!)

In stores
When you’re out shopping and you must make a call, do in private. It’s annoying to others who have to listen to you discuss your shopping list while roaming the aisles, and no one should be slowed down in a cashier line because of your conversation.

In restaurants
The abusive of cell phones in restaurants has become so great that some require phones to be checked at the door. Even if cell phones aren’t off-limits, turn yours off anyway and don’t make calls at the table. If you must call, excuse yourself to a vestibule or go outside.

In the car
Phoning from a moving vehicle is dangerous, and many places have outlawed it (New York). Some studies have shown that those who use cell phones in the car are at least four times more likely to be involved in an accident. Call from car phones also usually require that the caller talk in a louder than normal voice, so keep calls short. It’s also a good idea to let your phonemate know there are other people in the care who will overhear the conversation.

Keep this in mind as well: There are strange people out there who have listening devices that can tune in cellular phone calls. Most are fairly harmless, but there are a few eavesdroppers who record conversations and make evil use of the material. Keep your cell phone conversations innocent enough to withstand being overheard by an unknown party!

Text Messaging

Text messaging, or “texting,” involves typing messages on a cell phone and zapping them to the recipient in an instant. Texting is more informal than email and best used for only the briefest and most casual messages. If you have to notify someone of anything important or serious, text only as a prelude to a phone call.

  • Use common courtesy- a greeting to start a message and a thank-you or something similar to end it.
  • Be mindful of your recipients’ schedules rather than always assuming they’re available to text you back.
  • Keep your messages short. Ask only questions that can be answered briefly.
  • Be careful when choosing a recipient from your directory; a slip of the finger could cause a text to go astray.
  • If you receive a message by mistake, ignore it if you’re certain it was missent.
  • When you text someone who doesn’t have your number in his directory, start with a greeting then identify yourself.
  • Whenever possible, acknowledge text messages either by texting back or with a phone call.
  • Don’t disturb others by scrolling through your phone’s ring tones while in a public place.

Four Cell Phone Never-Evers

  1. Leaving the ringer on in a quiet place.
  2. Ignoring those you’re with.
  3. Making repeated calls.
  4. Using offensive language.


  1. Thanks for the very good series.
    Here is a follow-up question on cell etiquette:
    If you are in a public place and someone is near you, and they take or initiate a call on their cell phone, and loudly volunteer personal information during this call, how can you politely handle the situation? This has happened to me, and I feel uncomfortable staying where I am, but I can't always leave my spot (say, supermarket checkout line...)

  2. That's an excellent question, Barb! If you're in a situation where you can't leave to give the person some privacy (but really that burden should be on them), I would turn away and find something to busy myself. If the person is speaking loudly, obviously you can't help but hear, but looking at a magazine (if there's a decent one around) or organizing your purse would at least give you something to do. Maybe chat with your kids or someone else in line.

    If you're in a quiet place (theater, etc.) and someone begins a loud conversation, it is absolutely acceptable to politely ask them to take the call elsewhere.

  3. Or in the second situation, it's even better to ask an usher to intervene.

  4. Excellent article! May I add one thought? Texting can be expensive for the recipient...my cell phone company charges me 50c a message!

  5. Good point, Tammy! It would be polite and considerate to make sure that the person you are texting has the service as part of their cell phone package. Many cell phone providers offer text messaging service for a monthly fee, based on a certain number of messages. I think I have 500 messages for $5/month. My mom doesn't and it costs her a lot to like you said, so I just call! :-)

  6. I had to chuckle about your comment that if you are using a headset that is not very visible, it can be startling to a passer-by if you break out into conversation.

    I don't have a headset, yet. I have been startled many times by someone else using one, though I'm getting more used to it now. I have found myself in grocery stores or some other place, and I will hear a stranger say hello or make some other comment. I will think, "Is he or she talking to me?" Usually, I would figure out that the person was paying me no attention, but still, he or she kept talking on and on -- as if to his or herself. And, then, I would finally figure out that they are talking into one of those little earpieces, only it's on the side away from me and I can't see it. I don't know why, but I do find it a bit unnerving to walk through a public place by twenty different people who are all talking to unseen persons, all without a visible phone in their hands. I suppose I'll just have to get up to speed.