Photo: Alexandre Boucher

July is National Cell Phone Courtesy Month

Although Smartphone and cell phone etiquette should be common knowledge by now, sadly many people still get it wrong. What do you need to know?

Sharon Schweitzer, an international etiquette and modern manners expert, who is the founder of Access to Culture, offers these 10 tips:

Avoid texting, talking and driving: Not only is it discourteous to others on the road, but it is also a safety hazard. Many cities and states have regulations prohibiting texting while driving; and a few allow talking with the use of a hands-free device. The National Safety Council website provides statistics on distracted driving and advises that even hands-free cell phone use leads to cognitive distraction and slower reaction times.

Avoid calls during meetings: With a myriad of distractions at our fingertips, it is rare to have someone’s undivided attention. To stand out from the crowd, pay full attention in your meetings and conversations. This builds trust, inspires respect and sets up a path to long lasting business relationships. Keep in mind how it feels to be on the receiving end. Taking a call in the middle of a conversation shifts the focus away from the topic at hand and interrupts the flow for you both. Turn your phone on silent and tuck it in your purse or briefcase when interacting and engaging with people during a meeting, at a party or at dinner.

If you must take a call: If you absolutely must receive a call – for example, if a family member is in the hospital and you are awaiting news – advise beforehand and apologize that you may need to step away momentarily for an urgent call.

Observe silence in places of worship, cinemas, museums and libraries: Checking your phone or having it ring during a religious service—even if you don’t actually post or text—is a major faux pas and is quite inconsiderate of those around you. Traditional religious or holy sites and homes of the arts are places where there isn’t an exception to the rule. Mobile phones are off-limits. If you must check your phone, go outside and move at least 10 feet away from the building.

Focus on the transaction: Try drawing a triangle with your right hand and simultaneously drawing a square with your left hand and you can see why multitasking just doesn’t work. This is why talking on the phone and trying to conduct a financial transaction at the same time doesn’t work well either. Ending the conversation is a courtesy to both the person you’re on the phone with and the barista or cashier. The bottom line: Do one thing at a time.

Avoid talking & texting in a waiting room: When waiting for an appointment, the time may be spent completing forms, watching TV or quietly reading. Many medical and dental providers post signs prohibiting mobile phone calls, while allowing texting. Keep in mind that others in the room may have a serious condition, and someone else’s chatter can only add to the anxiety. If a phone call is urgent, step outside to avoid disturbing others.

Use a quiet voice in public: It goes without saying that shouting on the cell phone is rude, and even if the conversation is positive and exuberant those around you may not be so enthused. Modern manners experts recommend that you lower your voice, so others cannot hear your conversation. If the person on the other end has trouble hearing you, find a private place such as a conference room or a private bench to continue the conversation.

No calls on public transportation: On public transportation, it may be crowded, hot and space may be at a premium. Passengers are often impatient and ready to get to their destination. The last thing they want to do is listen to a Chatty Cathy on the cell phone. Be mindful of those around you and keep cell phone usage to texting (with the sound off) while on public transit.

Be mindful of conversations: As juicy as it may be, no one wants to hear your best friend’s latest drama discussed in a loud, detailed conversation in public. Keep private conversations private; wait to take those calls when you’re at home in a space with no noise restrictions or public etiquette concerns.

Cross the street phone free: Even with protected crosswalks, it is imperative for pedestrians to pay attention when crossing the road in busy traffic. In the road there are distracted drivers (those phones again!), EMS and commuters bustling every which way – being on the phone while walking in the middle of the street only adds to the hazard. If you’re in a conversation, wait to cross until after you hang up, or put the person on “hold” or mute.