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Mind Your Cell Phone Manners, Part II

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In my last blog, I introduced the first four tenets of cell phone etiquette: don’t take every call; don’t answer during one-on-one meetings; never answer in a group meeting; and be considerate in public spaces. Now, let’s move on to other specific circumstances.

As you read this, take comfort in knowing that we’ve all offended others when talking on our cell phones. Talking in an inappropriate place or in an inappropriate way is not a criminal offense. However, these are habits that you can and should overcome in order to be the best client, colleague and friend you can be.

1. Know which calls are urgent, and which ones can wait.
Personally, I’m uncomfortable walking down the street, paying for groceries or getting my change from the drive-through window when speaking on the phone. It just seems rude. Of course, there are exceptions: calling to say you’ll be late, asking for directions, talking someone through brain surgery, helping someone to land a plane, closing a million dollar deal or trying to make the trade deadline if you’re a GM of a professional sports team. Otherwise, is the call necessary? Yes, occasionally we’re on the phone for social reasons. While on the phone, how can we concentrate on crossing the street or being courteous to those we speak to “live and in person” all day every day? The answer — we can’t.

2. Be cautious when talking while driving.
Speaking on the phone from the car (headset on) is a great use of time — multi-tasking, baby. Of course, it’s best if there are no passengers on-board, unless you’re getting directions. Also, it’s important to remember that this is not the safest way to travel (you’re four times as likely to get into an accident, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration). So, be courteous, keep the conversation light and not overly involved and pay attention to the road.

3. Remember: off means off!
Respect the rules when asked by the staff or notified by a sign at a hospital, in a theater or on an airplane to refrain from cell phone usage — or the use of any other electronic device.

4. Beware of emotional conversations.
Good rule: Never take a call in public where the subject matter may be sensitive. Better rule: Never take a call when the subject matter may be sensitive and emotional. If you can, take the call outside or call the person back from a more remote location.

Michael Goldberg is a speaker, consultant, author, and the founder of Building Blocks Consulting. His book, “Knock-Out Networking! More Prospects, More Referrals, More Business!” was published in March. For more information or to subscribe to Michael’s free blog, The Building Blocks to Success, please visit or