By Dawn Stanyon
Scene: You’re in line at the post office/grocery store/coffee shop and the animated/loud/angry person in front of you is talking on his mobile phone. He’s debating a personal matter/directing a work-related issue/berating his teenager instead of interacting efficiently and professionally with the person behind the counter. Everyone in line is giving him the stink eye.
According to a recent survey, 91% of us have witnessed rude use of a cell phone. And we don’t like it. In an Intel/Ipsos 2012 survey, 75% of us believed mobile manners were just getting worse. Most of us would agree that is still the case in 2014. And yet we act this scenario out time and time again – and sometimes we are the bad guys. Another Ipsos poll several years ago pointed out that while 89% of us do encounter people using their cell phones rudely on a frequent/occasional basis only 8% of us believe ourselves capable of doing so (Ha!).
What are we to do about cell phone rudeness? Etiquette expert Jacqueline Whitmore initiated Cell Phone Courtesy Month in July 2002 with the intent to increase mindful use of mobile phones. Good idea. Annually, the morning shows feature segments with The Emily Post Institute, Mr. Manners and other etiquette talking heads creating awareness about mobile manners. Awareness is positive. We all are annoyed by rude use of communication devices. And yet, mobile manners aren’t increasing.
I think we need to face the cold hard truth: People are flawed (yes, yes: me too). Our personal issues are always very important while other peoples’ issues should be taken care of out of earshot. Let’s acknowledge our selfish humanness and consider the following opportunities (that might even aide in our relationship building!) this month:
- In confined public spaces don’t answer your phone and have the volume turned down (or off). If it’s an emergency (and how often is it really an emergency?) you can reply as soon as you’re out of the post office. Or if you need to take the call immediately, step out of line and step outside. This is the price we must pay for civility.
Recognize that public restrooms are not phone booths and that the person in the next stall does not want to hear about what happened at the club last night. (Ugh.)
To misquote something that Gandhi didn’t actually say: “Be the change you want to see with cell phone use.” In training (and parenting) we call this role modeling. You can’t actually change others but you can change your own actions. You have the power!
Are you up to the challenge? Let me know how it goes.