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Mobile Phones!

Mobile phones! There, it’s said. Where do we start when we ponder the etiquette of these arm extensions?


Your choice of ringtone says everything about you. If you plump for classical music (‘I am cultured’), heavy metal (‘I’m experiencing a mid-life crisis’), or a movie theme (‘my choice of movie is really going to impress my fellow commuters’) it allows others to judge you, rightly or wrongly, but can you take that chance? If you are racing to silence your ringtone during a business meeting then it is clear that you have made the wrong choice of ringtone. Explore your options and be aware of the message your phone is saying about you.



Yes, there is such an option! The following situations are where we would strongly advise you to put your mobile on silent:
1. Dining out. Depending on how formal the dinner is then it might be appropriate for you to have the phone on vibrate but it should be off the dinner table so that you can give your friends their full attention, as you would them.
2. At a meeting or seminar, and again if you are expecting an important call to let you know that you have clinched a deal perhaps, then having it on vibrate is acceptable. The only thing which is not acceptable is checking the phone during the meeting. There are usually short breaks factored into meetings for the very purpose of checking messages so panic not. Exercising some restraint and good manners towards the chair or guests speakers will be appreciated.
3. Your mobile phone should be placed on silent mode during wedding speeches, out at the movies or theatre, at a job interview, in a library or art gallery, during a hospital visit, at church, and most importantly, during a funeral. Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” benefiting from the natural acoustics of the church will not be appreciated, and in our opinion is the epitome of inconsiderate use of the mobile.


Quiet Carriages

If you have opted for the quiet carriage on the train journey into work then put your phone on vibrate. If you really must take the call then speak quietly, or if you feel you can’t be heard by your caller or that you can’t hear them, walk down the carriage and take the call between carriages. Not taking this course of action will almost certainly have your fellow passengers shoot you a disapproving look or have them expressing their displeasure which has everyone else’s peace disturbed too.


Dinner Parties

As tempting as it might be to resolve a dispute or put everyone out of their misery by consulting with Google about an irksome issue raised at the dinner party table, it is always good manners to ask the host first if it’s ok to do, even at the most casual of evenings.



As a courtesy to staff serving in stores, cafes, banks etc, try to refrain from answering the phone, or indeed making a call or texting, while you are being served. It is clear that this is happening regularly given the increased number of signs posted up at counters reminding valued customers that it is discourteous not to give the people serving you your undivided attention.


At the Work Desk

Open plan office space has many benefits but using your mobile phone at the desk can give rise to irritation and tension among your work colleagues. If you receive a call on your mobile and you have to raise your voice to be heard then offer to return the call on your land line so that your work mates don’t get disturbed by your discussions.



Careless Talk

During the Second World War the British government ran a propaganda campaign with posters indicating that ‘Careless Talk Costs Lives’ and that one should safeguard the nation’s security by taking care not to gossip, particularly in public spaces. Of course conversations we have over the mobile phone nowadays hopefully won’t have such dire consequences but it does raise the question as to exactly what should be talked about during your commute. It’s probably prudent not to broadcast your company’s business, financial or strategic, on a busy train ride home when fellow commuters are listening in. Today’s posters might instead read: ‘Careless talk could cost business deals – and your job!’

Image courtesy of Imperial War Museums.



Have you ever tried to navigate a busy pavement when you’re running late for a meeting perhaps, and then to add insult to injury got stuck behind someone whose priority is clearly on texting rather than walking with the flow of traffic? Sound familiar? Not only is this frustrating for those needing to make it to the top of Collins Street in 5 minutes flat, but it can be dangerous for the ‘offender’ too with the risk of walking into people, lamp posts or, worse still, into the path of a car or cyclist. If you really need to answer your phone or text someone then stop and step to the inside of the pavement to do so therefore allowing others to pass.


Return Calls

Have you ever been cut off during a call and never quite sure who should be first to call back? Well, if you initiated the call then it is your job to call back as soon as you can. Hopefully you won’t have the frustrating problem of calling back and then finding that the line is engaged because the other person is trying to call you! If you are unable to call back because you are about to head in to a meeting, for example, then text and let the person know that you will contact them as soon as is practicable.


Time of Day

Before calling anyone, be mindful of the time of day. Just because you’re out late heading from the latest ‘go to’ restaurant to the nearest nightclub doesn’t mean that the recipient of your call is. The general rule of thumb as to the appropriate time to call is between 8.30am and 9pm during the week, and 10am-8pm at a weekend. If your phone rings outside these hours you are quite at liberty to not answer and instead return the call the following day.