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Modern Etiquette: mobile manners for cellphone users

Brazilian punks use their mobile phones during a May Day demonstration on Labour Day in downtown Sao Paulo May 1, 2012. REUTERS/Nacho Doce
Brazilian punks use their mobile phones during a May Day demonstration on Labour Day in downtown Sao Paulo May 1, 2012. REUTERS/Nacho Doce

By Pamela Eyring

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Cellphones are ubiquitous and research shows that although most users think they have good mobile manners, many people report being irritated or annoyed by the use of the phones in public places.

Clearly there's a lack of understanding of what is and isn't acceptable in terms of cellphone etiquette. Following is a list of do's and don'ts:

- Do respect those who are with you. When you're engaged face-to-face with others, either in a meeting or a conversation, give them your complete and undivided attention. Avoid texting or taking calls. If a call is important, apologize and ask permission before accepting it.

- Don't yell. The average person talks three times louder on a cellphone than they do in a face-to-face conversation. Always be mindful of your volume.

- Do be a good dining companion. No one wants to be a captive audience to a third-party cellphone conversation, or to sit in silence while their dining companion texts with someone. Always silence and store your phone before being seated. Never put your cellphone on the table.

- Don't ignore universal quiet zones such as the theater, church, the library, your daughter's dance recital and funerals.

- Do let voicemail do its job. When you're in the company of others, let voicemail handle non-urgent calls.

- Don't make wait staff wait. Whether it's your turn in line or time to order at the table, always make yourself available to the server. 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.

- Don't text and drive. There is no message that is so important.

- Do keep arguments under wraps. Nobody can hear the person on the other end. All they are aware of is a one-sided screaming match a few feet away.

- Don't forget to filter your language. A rule of thumb: If you wouldn't walk through a busy public place with a particular word or comment printed on your T-shirt, don't use it in cellphone conversations.

- Do respect the personal space of others. When you must use your phone in public, try to keep at least 10 feet (three meters) between you and others.

- Do exercise good international calling behavior. The rules of cellphone etiquette vary from country to country.

Good cellphone etiquette is similar to common courtesy. Conversations and text exchanges have a tendency to distract people from what's happening in front of them. Cellphone users should be thoughtful, courteous and respect the people around them.

(Editing by Patricia Reaney and Leslie Adler) (Pamela Eyring is the president of The Protocol School of Washington (PSOW), which provides professional business etiquette and international protocol training. Founded in 1988, PSOW is the only school of its kind in the U.S. to become accredited. Any opinions expressed are her own. PSOW's website is: www.psow.edu.)

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