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Archive -‘Cell Phone Etiquette’










Truly…I thought the “cell phone talking” in the grocery line was at the top of my list.  You know, the person who stands staring at the same can of beans for 20 minutes while holding a long personal conversation as you try to negotiate around his/her basket to get your can of beans???  Ever notice how the offender smiles nicely and steps away just a bit, but then continues on with their conversation – until a second shopper needs something in the offender’s invisible  territory box?  You’ll notice the offender get a little put out now because, after all, you are invading their “talking space” and they ARE trying to have a conversation!  At this point, the offender moves about 3′ down and begins staring at another product he/she doesn’t intend to purchase…and the dance begins again.  At least I have the option to navigate around this person, and quite often, I will say “excuse me” and point right into the product that I need to purchase.  Of course, I’ve interrupted their very important conversation so I’m not usually met with a gracious smile. 

On the other hand, topping my list now, is the REALLY OFFENSIVE act of people sitting in medical offices waiting to be called in or waiting on a family member.  Seriously, I was at my son’s orthodontist recently when a woman came and sat 2 chairs down from me – talking on her cell phone from the time she entered the office until….well…until I could no longer read in somewhat of a quiet environment and had to move into another back area of the medical office to escape the intrusion. 

Honestly, remember when the doctor’s office was a quiet place where you could catch up on reading?  Sure, there may have been a few crying kids that were sick, but you had sympathy for them; and the occasional coughs and sneezes that penetrated the stillness, were only moments for you to exercise your good manners and give the usual “Bless you” or “Gesundheit” – and back to your reading you would go. 

I am just amazed at the lack of respect some people have for those around them and particularly, for those that work at the reception desk?  They have work to do.  They are on the phone making appointments, looking up information on the computer, talking to pharmacists, checking out parents….all the while having to listen to an annoying ongoing conversation by someone who apparently thinks their business should be EVERYBODY’S business.  

Is it that difficult to step outside and finish your conversation?  I mean, it’s not like we are EVER in below-freezing conditions here in Southern CA….and even if one does live in such a place and season where it is…then if it’s TOO DARN COLD to hang outside chatting up with your friend, then it’s not THAT URGENT!   After all, no one minds the brief moments of someone on a call who is politely ending it as quickly as possible – showing obvious respect for those around them – but to just ignore everyone around you…and air your dirty laundry???  Okay, maybe it’s clean laundry, I don’t really care.  I just don’t want to hear it.   

Maybe I should start a campaign like the non-smokers did.  “Second hand cell communication causes irritation to the nerve endings”!

Okay, I got that off of my chest – and I see no point in listing several tips for good cell phone etiquette here.  There are posts on this blog that already cover that.  It’s pretty simple.

Hang up and read. 

Ps:  Don’t get me started on bathroom stalls!

Recently I had to visit a local county courthouse to file some business papers.  The lobby area was similar to your typical DMV office only less crowded and noticably cleaner.  I noticed a diverse group of people ranging from “excitedly happy photo-shooting about to get married” couples to construction workers, business associates and more.  I arrived as early as possible but not quite early enough so I had to stand in line for about 45 minutes.  I didn’t mind.  I always bring a book or magazine when I visit any government office!  Unfortunately, I could hardly hear myself think or absorb the written word because one of the  seated customers, who apparently had complete disregard for every person in the place including the staff, decided to show a video clip of her dancing grandchild boldly displayed from her cell phone!  The  music was turned up as loud as her Blackberry or whatever she had would allow and one could’t help but see the little dancing creature on the screen, because she kept holding it up and showing other members of the family on either side of her chair.

Now I didn’t mind so much that someone wanted to share in their grand-ternal joy, but after about 20 minutes of hearing this scratchy loud music and the incessant chatter of the performer,  I had to use all the grace I could muster to tune it out and count the minutes before my turn was next at the window.

Clearly it even disturbed the staff, who needed to concentrate on the various business licenses, marriage documents, and more that they were processing at the time.  I even told the service agent when I reached her window…”someone on your staff should make it clear that this is disturbing everyone and that cell phones should be used only outside the lobby area”; and while she seemed just as annoyed, apathy is the prevailing emotion of many government employees.

I think cell phone etiquette is at the top of the list for the most common display of ill-manners.

It is impolite to use your cell phone when in the company of others, unless they are partner to the conversation, i.e.,  you are calling for dinner reservations for those in your company at the time.  In today’s business climate, people inappropriately use their cell phones in airport seating areas, restaurants, bars, commuter trains, and even in line at the bank .

There is rarely such an urgency to take or make a call that cannot wait until more private circumstances permit.   Turn off your ringer when dining or meeting with someone.  No matter if it’s a friend, client, or family member…vibration works fine…at which time you may subtly glance down to see if the call is urgent.  At that time, excuse yourself and take your phone to a private area to make your call.

Here are some great tips on Cell Phone Etiquette from my friend Diane Gottsman of The Protocol School of  Texas:


  • Do avoid checking your cell phone or smart device during a business meeting. Admittedly, the urge to check the time on your phone, leads to checking your emails and text messages, which leads to answering correspondence while sitting in an important meeting with your client of boss.
  • Do notify the presenter before the meeting begins if you’re expecting an urgent call. By doing so, he/she won’t be offended (they still will feel the sting!) if you have to excuse yourself to take a call. Sit in the back so you can exit discreetly.
  • Do turn your cell phone on silent whenever possible before entering a presentation or meeting. The vibrate setting is still disturbing when your phone is on a conference table, in your bag, or on the floor but at least shows you were attempting to show good manners.
  • Do carefully select a discreet ring tone and set your ringer volume on the lowest setting possible. Save the latest Lady Gaga for your personal time.
  • Do remember to include an email signature for all email messages you send/reply to via phone. The email signature that you’ve set up on your computer will likely not carry over. You may also wish to remove the “sent from my iPhone” or similar message that is automatically included at the end of emails you send from your cell phone.


  • Don’t text or email during a business meeting or presentation. If you must email, wait for a scheduled break in the agenda and step outside to send your quick communication.
  • Don’t update social networks during a business meeting. Although Facebook, Twitter, and other networks/apps may be tempting (especially during longer presentations) practice good cell phone etiquette by just saying “no.” Unless you’ve been designated to LIVE tweet from a conference, keep your hands off your cell phone.
  • Don’t bring personal cell phone calls into the office when returning from your lunch break. End the call before you enter the building whenever possible or you’ll risk your colleagues catching the end of an otherwise private conversation.
  • Don’t deck out your cell phone in bling or otherwise tacky skins or cases. Your phone is an extension of your personal brand. Hot pink, diamond-encrusted phone accessories can take away from an otherwise professional appearance. Choose a sleek and understated cover instead.
  • Don’t assume clients or coworkers text. Email or telephone is more professional and appropriate for office communication unless you know for certain that texting is the preferred method of choice.
  • Don’t send out mass text messages or photos to your entire contact list. Not everyone will be interested in your latest vacation photo or the picture of your best friend’s new baby girl.