Sunday, April 28, 2013

Cell Phone Etiquette Training Needed

With the advent of modern communications, it is becoming increasingly more possible to reach anyone, any time, anywhere. Like any other advancement, cell phones have provided much more flexibility and convenience in communication between people, but there are often instances where this goes more than a bit too far.

The rules for communicating via a cell phone often violate long-established taboos for face-to-face conversations. In fact, cell phones are used to communicate in situations where even close proximity dictates any normal person should give the conversation a rest. Aside from the dangers associated with using a cell phone while driving instead of concentrating on the road, there are many other instances where people just cannot seem to resist answering calls that could easily wait for a better moment.

Perhaps there should be some rules of engagement associated with using the instant gratification of holding hours of conversations that otherwise should not take place. A simple rule of thumb might be to encourage people not to answer a phone, or participate in a conversation if they would find it embarrassing to hold the same conversation in person with the other party. Certainly, in a regular conversation, the surroundings significantly impact one's desire to talk with another person, so why should anyone wish to hold a business conversation in the middle of a bathroom break, with toilets flushing all around? Surely the other party can understand there are times when a person needs a little space to concentrate on other activities that require full attention.

The rudeness, lack of concern for what is happening around them, and temerity of cell phone users is legendary. Listening to people talking on cell phones while reality dictates a more polite or obvious focus of attention is commonplace, not to mention the astronomical increase in the number of "Hi, what's going on with you?" calling that people seem irresistibly compelled to make from their cells. If a person were shoved from a plane without a parachute, their last act might be to make one last cell phone call to say good-bye before hitting the ground. It can become difficult to discern whether an approaching stranger is speaking to you or someone on a cell phone. Maybe there should be a sticker people can put on their shirt to indicate FOCUSED ON REALITY or CELL TALKING to help those around them know more readily whether or not to engage in the exchange.

Recently, in working with a consulting client, I was asked to post a recorded conference call and demonstration session to the company's intranet site for open access to all company employees. When reviewing the material, there were several instances of toilets flushing, and noises indicating people were participating with cell phones while using the bathroom. I made note of these unpleasant sound bytes included with the presentation, but the leadership was happy to post the material unedited. For victims of cell phone compulsion, life must be difficult for those who cannot seem to find the time to eliminate, eat, sleep, entertain, be entertained, drive, work, or procreate without including a cell phone vigil as an over-riding priority to these activities.

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