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Cell Phone Etiquette

During a family dinner, I noticed several cell phones sitting on the dining room table. As a child, we were neither allowed to make nor receive phone calls during dinner hours, so the dichotomy between past and present not only struck me as odd, but it also frustrated me.

Surely we all feel our time is valuable. I am extremely busy and when I am doing something, I want to focus on that part of my life with my full intention. This includes not peeking at my cell phone when I am in the presence of others.

I have been in the middle of many a face-to-face conversation, both personally and professionally, where the other person checks a text or answers their cell phone. Don’t they know you should respect those who are with you and give them your full, undivided attention!?

Why bother getting together if we're going to be on our cell phones the whole time?

Why bother getting together if we’re going to be on our cell phones the whole time?

About three in four people now believe manners have been wrecked by phones, laptops, tablets and social media, according to a poll by Debrett’s, the modern etiquette guide.

Most of us can agree that cell phones have invaded our lives, but check out this list of common dos and don’ts that might help make us a little less rude.

Cell Phone Etiquette:

  1. Avoid taking calls when you’re already engaged in a face-to-face conversation.
    If you do take a call, ask permission of the people with you.
  2. Avoid texting, emailing, playing games, and using social media during face-to-face conversations.
    The top of your head is probably not what your companion came to see.
  3. Put your ringer on silent in environments like restaurants, theaters, churches, and libraries.
    Silence and store phones in universally quiet zones.
  4. Never put your cell phone on the table.
    No one wants to be a captive audience to a third-party conversation, or to sit in silence while their date texts with someone.
  5. Observe the 10-foot proximity rule.
    Keep a distance of at least 10 feet from the nearest person when talking on a cell phone.
  6. Don’t make wait staff wait.
    Making servers and other patrons wait for you to finish a personal phone call is never acceptable. If the call is important, step away from the table or get out of line.
  7. Don’t text and drive.
    There is no message that is so important.

When 91% of Americans own a cell phone and can use it to summons anything from videos of grandkids to pizza delivery, perhaps cell phones actually ARE more important than interpersonal relationships. But, I hope not. I hope that we can have the best of both worlds. Let’s use our phones as a tool, not a crutch.


6 Responses to “Cell Phone Etiquette”

  1. JennyM

    Well, as you’ve mentioned in other posts, be careful about assuming WHY someone is acting a certain way. Perhaps they checked their phone during a face-to-face meeting to find out if the text mentions there was a problem with the babysitter (kid emergency)…or a spouse calling that he’d be delayed at work…or news of a successful surgery from family members not in the state. There are some things that are just as important as the person in front of you. However, with that said, I appreciated your comments 1. Ask permission to grab the call (or even notify the person you are with why the text was so important), and 2. about “take it outside” if talking on the phone in a public place…and silencing the ringer.

    • marylemonwater

      Yes, Jenny, I totally agree! And I think that’s why it’s important to just let your companion know what’s going on. They would totally understand too.

  2. Eileen Fox

    I’ve heard of a new trend where people dining together put their phones in a pile on the table and whoever looks at their phone during dinner has to A) pay for everyone’s meal if at a restaurant, or B) Do the dishes if at home.

    • marylemonwater

      I love that idea!! Thanks for sharing… I’ll give it a try! 🙂

    • marylemonwater

      Eileen – We used your tip at Thanksgiving dinner… the first to check their cell phone had to wash dishes. Even the teenagers kept their phones stashed. It was fabulous!!


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