leading with technology

10 Rules of Tech-etiquette

leading with technologyI had the privilege of being ignored the other day.

I walked into a firm’s reception area to find the receptionist talking into her headset and rustling through papers. No problem, I thought. I’m early for my appointment, I’ll just wait. She said her goodbyes and immediately switched to typing furiously into her computer. I’ve been there, I thought. She just finished with that call and has to record something before she forgets it. So I waited. And I waited. Then I started to marvel. Around the three-minute mark it became an experiment: How long can she blatantly ignore my presence?

Finally, after five full minutes I broke – I was going to be late for my appointment! I introduced myself and told her whom I was there to see.

I’ve been thinking a lot the past couple of weeks about being present where I am with the people I’m with. As I’ve been practicing that, it’s become grossly apparent to me how much we allow technology to get in the way of connecting with each other. I’m not suggesting that technology is the problem; in fact, I’m an avid and active proponent for social media and the interactive web. It’s not the technology, it’s how we use the technology.

Here are 10 rules of what I call Tech-etiquette. I’m sure there are more, but here’s a start:

1. Close your laptop. If you’re working on your laptop and someone enters the room to talk with you, close your laptop and focus on them. Same thing in a meeting, close that laptop whenever you can. If it needs to remain open for reference or note-taking, try to place it at angle so the screen isn’t a barrier between you and others.

2. Single task during conference calls.
The temptation is huge. Odds are, no one will ever know if you’re checking email, reading a book, or even taking a nap. It’s a character and respect issue. If it’s not that important, then don’t be on the call; if it is that important, then be fully on the call.

3. Single task with live people.
Resist the temptation to check your email or surf the web or update your status while simultaneously carrying on a real-live conversation.

4. Don’t call after hours. We all have answering machines now so it’s easy to avoid the human contact by simply calling early in the morning or late at night. Have the guts to call during office hours.

5. Don’t let your email or phone rule you. Ever been having a conversation with someone, their cellphone rings and they just silence it without breaking contact with you. They don’t even check to see who it was. How’s that make you feel? Important? Valued? What about the opposite: You’re meeting someone in their office and the phone rings or an email arrives (bing!), and they interrupt the conversation to answer the phone or check that message. How’s that make you feel? Second-rate? Second-fiddle?

6. Don’t wear a Bluetooth earpiece around. Are you really that important? The nonverbal message you’re sending to everyone around you is, “You can talk to me but at any moment someone more important than you may call me and I’ll need to answer it.”

7. Don’t talk to your slides. Your slideshow is there to back up your story and help your audience get what you’re trying to convey. Contrary to popular use, your slides are not cue cards to help you remember your points or a security blanket so you can talk to the screen instead of the people in your audience. Rarely should you even look at your slides – they’re not there for you!

8. Ban phones from meetings. Like shoes in the Far East, or guns in the Old West, phones should be left at the door in corporate meetings. Some companies collect them in a box. Others charge the individual when it rings in a meeting (or they have to buy dinner/drinks afterward).

9. Put your camera away. Now that our phones take pictures and record video we have more ways to document and share our lives. My only warning: In your rush to record life, don’t forget to live it.

10. Don’t email/text/DM what should be spoken in person.
Anyone who electronically transmits what should be spoken face to face (i.e. firing an employee, dumping a boyfriend/girlfriend, critiquing performance, etc.) is a coward.

What am I missing on this list?

233 thoughts on “10 Rules of Tech-etiquette”

  1. Jeff, you’re right on with this article. I’m so sick of etiquette going out the window as we overload with technology!

  2. Geoff – I TOTALLY AGREE!!! Phones, e-mail, text and such are here for our convenience – we all managed quite well before them.

    I would also like to include
    11. One conversation at a time. I know a lot of people who talk on the phone, text and chat online all at the same time. It’s annoying when someone is barely talking to me or laughing at another convo they are having on their computer. Especially if it’s frivolous.

  3. Haha, this reminds me of when I went to check into the hospital for when our daughter was born. We had a wait a couple of minutes while the person who did the check in finished what she was doing on Farmville and was clearly annoyed that we interrupted her game.

  4. This is a great article! It is a bit saddening to see how technology is replacing some of our every day social interactions. One of my favorites was not to leave a voicemail, but to have the nerve to call during office hours, and also don’t email/text/dm what should be said in person. I do believe some people do use technology as a crutch, to prevent them from having to deal with awkward situations, so they just send emails or leave voicemail’s when they know individuals will not be in the office.

  5. Excellent post. I find it most annoying when people are with me because they want something from me (sell me something, etc) and then waste my time by answering their cell phone.

    Am not a believer of multi-tasking. Do one thing at the time; do it well and you end up doing it better and faster than while juggling a variety of tasks simultaneously. If you do one thing at the time you can reflect on whether or not you like doing that task or not; if you don’t, how can you change your attitude or get rid of the chore.


    1. Good thoughts. I’m with you, but I’m also very distractable (I think I just made up a word. maybe I should look it up in the dictionary, what was the word the other day I was going to look up…there I go again). Take discipline to stay on target!

  6. This should be mandatory reading for anyone who has a cell phone, (which is essentially everyone), office reception staff and store check-out clerks. I for one am tired of being invisible, ignored, and considered less important in person than I am on the phone.

  7. Great list!

    I would add or emmend bmj2k’s comment.

    bmj2k :
    That is an awesome list. I would add not to shout into your cellphone/bluetooth. We don’t need/care about your conversation.

    What if, instead of yelling into your phone in a public place, you walked out o f said place, or to an unoccupied space in it? If you have to take the call by all means take. But, the rest of us didn’t the call you did!

    Again, Great list!

  8. I agree with all of these points, especially the cell phone ones. “5. Don’t let your email or phone rule you” is a huge one for me. I don’t have a home phone, just a cell, so I’ve decided to use it like it was a home phone. ie: if I’m driving and i get a call, i just let it ring, cuz if it was my home phone, I wouldn’t be at home to get it anyways. I just check it when I’m stopped.

    Also, I think it’s soooo rude to constantly be checking your phone, even if you’re with a big group, but especially one on one. That person is esentially saying that “the 3 inch screen on my phone is more entertaining than ya’ll”.

    Thank you for allowing me to get that off my chest.

  9. Dream on. I’ve seen all ten violated DAILY around the office. One more – NO BUSINESS CALLS WHILE YOU ARE IN THE JOHN. I’ve seen that more than once. A guy will be on the phone with an important client, and carries the conversation while he pinches one off. If people can’t understand how that is blatantly rude, good luck convincing them to close their laptop.

    1. I’m hopeful. I think a lot of people break these rules out of ignorance or, dare I say, addiction. Maybe raising awareness will help some see the light (and power) of human connections.

      Start calling people on these and see what happens!

  10. I very much appreciate your observation that technology is not the problem, how we use it is. Great list and all so true! I would also add: Don’t call me and then put me on hold to take another call (in a personal or business situation). If it’s a personal call, I’m likely to hang up on you at that point. As you mentioned, we almost all have voicemail, and this would be an appropriate time to use it.

    1. I agree. Of course all these have the caveat, “unless there’s an emergency.” (where “emergency” doesn’t include the latest tweet from Justin Bieber)

  11. #2 – Irritates the living daylights out of me. I have one standing meeting a week with my client. One meeting. That should last no more than 30 minutes. But it usually lasts an hour because I have to answer questions at the end that were answered 35 minutes ago but since my client was on two conference calls at the same time… I just don’t get.

  12. I think that this is pretty comprehensive list for a start. As you ask in the end, ‘what am I missing?’ I am sure that there are things left off this list, albeit, not intentionally. With how much technology has infiltrated daily lives, it’s hard to imagine that there are only 10 rules that need to be adhered to.

    With Love and Gratitude,

    The Intentional Sage

  13. Great post! I agree with the list, especially the last one. Technology is making it so easy and convenient to instantly message somebody to tell them important or critical information without having to call them about it, or talk to them face to face. We can’t lose our human interaction. DON’T TURN INTO ROBOTS!

  14. Geoff, you could have easily written this as an angry rant, but instead you sound wise and patient. Good show, sir!

    Working in customer service as a barista, I get that bluetooth thing a lot. Most people who wear them seem to not be busy executive types, but people who want to look important. I would love for someone to turn it off or hang up their phone when ordering their coffee from me–especially when others are waiting behind them and I can’t get their attention.

  15. Excellent post! I love your distinction that “It’s not the technology, it’s how we use the technology.” So true!

    I would add “Don’t be on your cell phone while in the checkout line.” I’m sure the cashier might enjoy some actual human interaction, even if it’s just a “thank you, have a nice day.”

  16. All excellent points! Funny thing is, if I avoid a call because I’m busy, I’m often berated by people who, with the knowledge I have a cell phone, think I should answer it every time they call no matter what I’m doing!
    I often tell them, sorry, I WAS BUSY because I do try to not answer the phone when
    1)Driving – I cant stand it when people swerve into my lane because they’re reaching for their ringing phone or worse yet TEXTING while driving…
    2)In a check out lane – I feel its rude not to acknowledge the person who is checking your items
    3)In a conversation with someone else.

    So bottom line, if by chance, this gets through to a few people, please try to not be one of those people who insist everyone you call needs to answer. I’m just sayin….

    1. Completely agree with Christy’s first two. My work involves driving to different sites and I encounter so many poor drivers. I see people swerving around or driving slowly on a freeway only to find them on the phone. I am also in grocery stores A LOT (my job is helping adults with disabilities at their job sites) and customers are so rude in general, but when they’re on the phone while their purchases are being rung up it’s especially rude. Not only do they hold the line up fumbling their ATM transaction and holding the conversation, but they completely disregard the cashier who is a person right in front of you!

    2. Funny you mention that Christy, as I would add the flip side: please don’t take my call on your cell and then tell me you can’t take my call right then. If you’re too busy to take the call, why did you answer in the first place?

    3. heh i second this one. although one time i actually got criticized by a guy for not answering the phone when he called (as I was in a face to face conversation) even though he had received the benefit of this policy on more than one occasion – he enjoyed being able to sit and waste time in my office telling me stories…
      hmm. maybe he hated my policy since it meant that he didn’t get to hear my phone conversations

  17. what about “when having to use phone/laptop/other device on public transport, please do it discretely”. I so can NOT stand people who watch movie/video with full volume, put the speaker on their phone and holds is as if they were talking TO the phone and everyone can hear the whole conversation. Anyway, nice post, thanks :)

  18. I hope you do not mind, but I did my own rendition of this. I put up a list of how technology interferes with our social lives in a relationship sense, rather than a business sense.

  19. Very comprehensive.. I loved the 6th point. I have beginning to wonder is the opposite inversely true..??
    The very look puts me off- I mean is he more important than the Cops, Ministers.. oh nevermind..

  20. Brilliant! I feel like you’ve delved into my subconscious and pulled out each and every one of my pet peeves. Aside from #4 of course, which I tend to find myself doing every once in awhile.

    It’s also important to note the reverse of 1 & 3…some co-workers don’t seem to know the appropriate time to leave when someone is working. After the person acknowledges the co-worker, perhaps a quick assessment can determine whether or not they have the time to socialize. If they look distracted, hanging around might just be bothersome, and cause them to multitask in front of you.

    1. Good point. Tough to tell sometimes when someone is intentionally using technology to send us a message or if they’re just ignorant about what they’re doing.

    1. Absolutely! You have such an opportunity. Do some these things and you’ll already be ahead of your peers. Business is about human relationships – always has been, always will be.

  21. I always silence my phone if it rings in the middle of conversation. It must be rare these days… you should see my clients’ faces. They reflect happiness with an element of surprise.

  22. I had a meeting with someone recently and as I joined him in his office he turned off his monitor – like closing the laptop. I don’t know how many times I’ve had meetings where people do a quick click or two as the attention jumps back to the monitor. It really make you feel good to know that they want to give you their full attention. Close the laptop or turn off the monitor, DND the phone and silence the cell – and tell your client you are doing it before you get started – does wonders.

  23. On more than one occasion when coming back into Dublin airport we’ve been waved through by the Gardai (police) at their passport checking stations. They’ve always got their eyes on their computers and we used to assume they were looking at a video feed of passengers or pictures of ‘Ireland’s most wanted’. But no. We bravely looked into the booths the last time and both of the Gardai on duty were playing solitaire. Made us feel really safe.

    Great post.

    1. To Duck’s Feet -> Oh…My…God. I’ve experienced the same thing and could only assume they were, I don’t know, doing their job. Was never brave enough to question their lack of interest in a non-citizen skipping the queue. Frightening.

      Great post, Geoff. Four stars on your list! The only thing I might add are those lacking proper iPod/MP3 Player etiquette in public. They are EVERYWHERE and some even pull out their headphones forcing other passengers on the bus, train, etc. to listen to tin can-esque versions of already nauseating club jams. If I hear another Lady Gaga Electro-Spastic-Remix just one more time I’m gonna take out their iPods with mah mah mah my poker fist!



  24. Good list. People answering phone calls/texting during a conversation is a big pet peeve of mine.

    On the flip side, in my office we have some what I call ‘lingerers’ who tend to stand in your office just to complain, whine, vent etc. I find opening my laptop and typing is a great way to let them know “i’m busy and don’t have time listen to this right now”

  25. Wow! Great list. This is something that’s been bothering me lately. I’ve caught myself allowing technology to rule me and I’ve felt the burn when others have slighted me in favor of their phone or computer. We could all use a refresher course in good manners.

  26. I agree with each item on your list although I have yet to encounter most of them (I am somewhat behind th times)
    What I would like to know is how to answer my cell phone. I was always told to answer house phones with “so-and-so’s residence who may I say is calling?” As opposed to “Hello?” which I have unfortunately reverted back to on my cell phone when I do not know the caller. Is their a new standard?

    1. If I answer an unknown call, I usually just say, “Hi, this is Geoff” I expect them to tell me who they are and why they’re calling me. If they don’t I immediately ask.

  27. Great list! I do think that between the phone call and the typing, the receptionist should have acknowledged you – “Hi, I’ll be with you in a sec, I need to get this down so I don’t forget it.”

    Another one I hate is phone messages that say “Please leave a message and I’ll return your call as soon as possible.” I know this means “I’m screening, and I’ll call you when I bloody well feel like it.” MY phone message says “I’ll return your call in one business day” – and I do.

    1. My message says “I’ll return your call as soon as possible”–and it means that, I will return your call as soon as I can. I don’t indicate screening with my machine message because I have caller ID and I don’t need to let anybody know I’m screening; my message could say anything at all and I could still be screening your call. But some calls are less vital to immediately return than others–if I know that I have three busy school days ahead with exams and studying and I need to return a call to my mother-in-law who just called to catch up and tends to talk for a very long time, I will return her call when I have time to talk for an extended period of time. This, I feel, is less rude than calling her between classes and cutting our conversation short when she wants to chat; I can use e-mail in the interim to let her know I’ve received her call and I’ll call her back after my exams or whatever.

      Sometimes, a cigar is just a cigar. And sometimes a person who doesn’t call back within a business day doesn’t do so for good reasons.

  28. *applause* Thank you.

    I had a similair experience at a doctor’s office; not one but two receptionists on the other side of the slidey window were engrossed in their computer. Like you, I considered it a kind of experiment – how long can I stand here, a foot and a half away from them, before at least one bothers to look up? At the four minute mark, I left – which was safer than what I might have said if I’d stayed.

    #6 – my old boss used to wear his earpiece all the time. I always had to resist the deep urge to call him “Lt. Uhura”. That would not have gone well.

    I vented on this (among other things) a couple of months ago: http://agoldoffish.wordpress.com/2010/05/20/random-aggravations/

  29. Awesome list! I wish I had something to add…but, uh, you got everything!

    I think technology rules! But I think it can also easily make non-communication easier and it’s something that I too am guilty of.

    I think it’s important to remember to give the people in our immediate space the attention they deserve, and I think it’s important to make sure that we continue making contact with those around us in more personal terms.

    It’s awfully easy to get used to texting instead of calling…but my it’s rewarding to hear a smile on the other end.

  30. I especially like #9. The other day, I snapped a picture of my son as he jumped into the pool alone for the first time. The picture didn’t turn out, and I missed the real moment because I was too worried about getting the shot.

    Thanks for this post. It served as a great reminder to always stay present.

  31. An awesome and pretty comprehensive list. I’m a network administrator and often see these first hand and I’ve caught myself doing them, too.

    If there were any I would add, and I think some of these were touched on already, they would be

    -Don’t text while driving
    -Don’t strike up a conversation in the bathroom, even if you do recognize my shoes….
    -A face to face conversation is worth more than tons of emails and phone calls.

    Great post!

  32. Great .. love your tips. Wouldn’t it be great if people could disconnect more and deal with people face-to-face? I am afraid that there is a world wide tech addiction that is eliminating human contact.
    My local radio station recently had this conversation. They are challenging people to start small … by sponsoring “face-to-face” Fridays … put the tech away for one day a month … should be doable .. I think the challenge should be tougher … like every friday .. but, we have to start somewhere.

    1. Good – and challenging – ideas. Again, I don’t think it’s the technology’s fault; I think it’s how we use it. But I do believe it’s addiction we’re dealing with – so extreme measures are probably needed.

  33. These points are SO applicable to everyone and anyone! Even on a non-professional level, I think we should display better etiquette. I was saying to my close friend the other day that I can’t stand it when this happens:

    me: … I’ve actually been going through a very hard time lately, especially ..

    *bring bring*

    friend: just hold on, hello yes I can talk bla bla bla bla
    tick tick tick tick (texting) carry on, i’m listening.

    That’s when I want to grab the cell phone and smash it against the wall!

  34. So how do we get these Lessons OUT THERE!!?? It’s so true people don’t know how to interact — or are putting it on a back burner to the TECHNOLOGY!! SO SAD!! Definitely should be taught at colleges & HS — before the next generation has totally lost all sense of manners & niceties! Great BLOG! Congrats on Being Freshly Pressed. I wrote a blog myself on something similar . . .


  35. I would say one more…when you are at a restaurant, even if you are alone, turn the cell phone off. I know it is sort of addressed with a couple of the other points but there is nothing more annoying that someone at the next table with their blue tooth, talking way too loudly into it while they shovel food in. Most of us go out to eat to spend time with people we care about or as a special treat…get your food to go if you want to eat and talk at the same time.

  36. I’d add one more: When you are already talking to someone on your home telephone, do not answer your cell phone and proceed to carry on a four-minute conversation with your 8-year-old who is visiting grandma. Even if you say “Excuse me” to the original caller, that’s still rude!

  37. I couldn’t agree more… With all of it!!!!!
    It’s such a frustration when I’m having a conversation with someone, and they literally pull out their Blackberry and check their email… And then respond to the email while I’m in the middle of a sentence. Really classy… It really shows me how much the person cares about what I have to say… Or better, they’ll be in the middle of talking to me, and checking their Blackberry, and then stop talking mid-sentence to reply to an email. Then when they’re finished, they’ve forgotten what they were saying. Is the email really THAT important that it can’t wait 2 minutes for a conversation to be wrapped up? Ugh… So RUDE… Sometimes, it just seems like this generation has forgotten what manners are.
    I have bitterness towards Blackberries…Correction – A specific user of a Blackberry.

    1. How do you really feel, Nikki? Just kidding. I hear you. I try to remember most people are ignorant of how their actions are belittling the people around them.

      1. Ahahahahhaha I guess I have a bit of repressed anger towards this all hahahahaha.. Oh my…
        I guess it’s better to underestimate the person’s manners rather than take offense to their actions and taking it to heart. :)
        Either way, this entry is great. ;)

  38. You’re seeing your lawyer, accountant, doctor etc and they answer their phones, check their emails and then send you the Bill for their time! So unprofessional and SO ANNOYING.

  39. Thank you for the excellent list– you have done your research well!

    I would add this: when switching from regular e-mailing to texting, please respect the different use between the two. Texting should be for short, necessary communications: “I’m running 15 minutes late.” It shouldn’t be for (often misspelled) blips such as “feeding dog,” “in store,” “at hair cut.” I would rather receive one nicely written e-mail with real content, rather than the latest update on what the texter is doing that very second. ; )

    1. Amen, Richard. When I was at West Point, I remember Norman Schwartzkopf telling us, “Character is what you do when no one is watching”

      I like yours too, a little more poetic!

  40. The pavlovian response we have to technology is amazing; I’ll be watching a movie with my S.O., my phone will ring and I ignore it/silence it and she has to know who is calling. It drives me crazy that we can’t set it aside here and there, and I’m a dedicated tech junkie.

  41. Great post! I completely agree. I will also add, we are teaching our children by example. When they see us act inappropriately, they will mimic the same behavior in the future! Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

  42. Wow! Great list and great replies! I would add:

    No cell phones at the dinner table, in or out of the house.
    How about those people that are in a public bathroom and they think they are actually having a private conversation.

    Youth today interact more than in the past with one another, however, those interaction are not face-to-face, i wonder how that will affect their future?

  43. Another on the flip side: If you miss my call on your cell, please check your voicemail before calling me back rather than calling me and making me repeat myself, or worse, from work my number the call will register as the main line and you will call back a receptionist telling them that someone called them and expecting them to know where to direct the call.

  44. Or you call a number back and ask, “Who’s this?” You made the call; who are YOU calling? Or at least identify yourself.

  45. A great article, I love your tips. I was at the bowling alley the other day, and a woman next to my group had a bluetooth headset in the entire time. First of all, she didn’t strike me as the type of lady who had important business going on, and secondly, she was bowling…what could be more important than that?

  46. Geoff,
    This is an excellent post!
    Funny how all these tools and this technology which was intended to simplify our lives and increase our efficiency makes us more distracted, rude and busy than we ever were without them!
    Thank you, Sweetman

  47. Excellent list with lots of great points! So many people need to read this and start living it! This is my favorite line, “It’s not the technology, it’s how we use the technology.” Thank you. Well said.

    I think another good point is friends that get so “into” their Blackberry (or similar device) that they stop ever having meaningful interactions with the friends that they *think* they are staying so “in touch” with. For example instead of good talks, or even emails or chats – everything is reduced to a Blackberry one line message or response. To those folks I say: You are not as in touch as you think you are and you’re real friends miss you.


  48. Excellent issues.

    I would like to point to one problematic aspect, however: Rudeness is often a question of habit, perception, what we are used to from others, and similar. For instance, I have myself often been in situations like the one with the receptionist, where I take it for granted that someone in her position would acknowledge me as soon as reasonably possibly, even if (assuming a colleague) with a short “I am drowning in work right now. Could we take this tomorrow?”. Half the time, before I learned the drill, I too was kept waiting.

    Notably, a variation of this has often occured with e.g. requests for information or completion of a task: I used to send an email requesting this-or-that, notice with surprise that no answer had come after two days, assume that the recipient was simply very busy and would answer as soon as he could—only to find, another two days later, that he had entirely forgotten. (Or, possibly, “forgotten”: I have a hypothesis that some schedule their work according to who makes the most noise—and if someone does not make noise, he is neglected entirely.) Now, this is highly relevant to my original statement, because I interpreted the situation as “X is rude, lazy, and/or incompetent.”, while at least one of my old bosses interpreted it as “Michael lacks the drive to get things done.”—and here we can see how different expectations on people and situations play in.

    (As a corollary to the above, a good rule of email-etiquette: Answer emails in a timely manner, and if you cannot give a complete response now then indicate roughly when you will be able to do so.)

  49. I’m so guilty of the multi-tasking while on phone calls problem. What’s more, I get annoyed when other people do it to me! I think I have to go with Gandhi on this one, as in “Be the change you want to see in the world” Thanks for the heads up!

  50. Excellent list! But doesn’t it all boil down to one thing? The simple common courtesy with which we used to treat each other before we got so “important”?

  51. what a great list! one thing i would add — “if you’re using technology, make it work to enhance your interaction with others” — i’m thinking about how much these items can do and how we use them to “communicate” yet still can’t manage to keep our daily lives in order. for example, if i’m out with someone and we’re talking about when we’ll next get together, i tell the person “let me look at my calendar” — then i take it out and discuss it with them right there. then we set a date and i tell them that i’m putting it in the calendar so nothing else gets booked at that time. this is a way to use technology to keep my word to my friends and let them know how important they are to me — using the technology i have!

  52. Terrific article and great responses! In some ways people use cell phones/blue tooths like cigarettes. They think they look cool and they don’t care that they are polluting the air with their unnecessarily loud conversations.

  53. Great article, very relevant and to the point. Superb work Geoff. Thank you very much and I’ll be sure to pass it on everytime I can.
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  54. It would be nice if people on the other end of the phone call had a similar set of rules. It amazes me when people leave messages demanding that I answer my phone more often. I do not wear my phone like a fashion accessory. I actually leave it at home when I go out, or am working, or even (gasp!) sometimes turn it off.

    The voice mail is there for the express purpose of allowing you to leave me a message. When I hear your message, I will call you back. Nagging, impatient insistences of how important you are, like mosquitos buzzing around my ears, will certainly not encourage me to answer your next call. Even if the phone is in my hand when it rings.

  55. Don’t bring your cell phone into the bathroom, talk on it in the toilet stall, and then complain to whoever you’re talking to that it’s so loud because of the toilets flushing! It happened to me and I flushed the toilet three times — just because that person was so irritating.

  56. I completely agree, Geoff….and I know that one person has already mentioned talking on your cell phone while you are in a restroom. UGH! The other day I had to go into a public restroom and there was a lady talking on her speaker phone (yes! You read that right! SPEAKER!).
    Usually, when I realize that someone in another stall is on the phone with an obviously non-emergency call, I flush a bunch of times!

  57. Now, can we take your post, print it and Distribute it EVERYWHERE.
    Of course, we must tack on

    No Cell Phones, IPod’s, or Texting while DRIVING! Though against the law in most places, people STILL DO IT! And put us ALL in danger.

    None of the Above when in front of a Human Being, EVER! Just Rude. (I realize it’s just an elaboration on # 3, but HAD TO SAY IT for those that may not get it)

    And finally, CALL, don’t TEXT. If you can’t have the Person in front of you, the next best thing is their voice, not Symbols. e.g. TTYL K. R U BZ?
    UGH!! I mean not only is it impersonal, but WHAT HAPPENED TO SPELLING?!?!?!

    Oh and to clarify, Just because the “NEWER” Generation texts while they talk to you does not make it ACCEPTABLE! Had to throw that one in there for those Mature Individuals that guess it’s acceptable because they ALL do it. As my Mom used to say, if they all jumped off a Bridge, would you do it too?

    BTW, heh heh, Thank You!!

    1. “And finally, CALL, don’t TEXT. If you can’t have the Person in front of you, the next best thing is their voice,”

      Here, on the other hand, I find myself strongly disagreeing. There are many instances when textual communication is superior, e.g. because it is asynchronous, makes it easier for the recipient to get numbers, dates, and names right, and allows a later access. As a very rough rule of thumb: Various textual forms are superior for transmitting information; various oral forms are superior for bonding and entertainment. The mere fact that you have a particular preference in communication style and medium does not automatically make others share this preference.

      (As far as lack of spelling, I do agree.)

      1. I agree with you Michael that for transmitting certain types of data a text is by far superior. I should have clarified that point. I was distinctly referring to the texts whose sole purpose is to see what you are doing and/or What’s Up.
        Once you text and you find that the person is available, CALL. Don’t keep texting back and forth. I find it irksome.
        LOL!! And I believe Geoff is ABSOLUTELY RIGHT…A bit too much Passion at times. =oS
        What can I say, we all have Pet Peeves. :P

    2. From the Pews – sounds like you jumped up the pulpit there! I understand your passion, though. As for spelling, here’s one I dislike:

      “sent from my iPhone please forgive any typos”

      Ugh. Please.

  58. Many great points! However as a receptionist in a Dr’s office myself I feel the need to point out how it is not always a case of being ignored. I have often found that when typing or completing computer tasks that the height, and angle of my desk combined with my own height cause me to be unable to immediately notice patients who approach quietly. Often people do not announce themselves and simply stand until I look up from whatever I had been doing and notice that they are there. A simple “Good Afternoon” or “hello” would have let me know much earlier that there was someone who needed to be helped. Then I could have acknowledged them and indicated that I would be free in a minute or immediately assisted them. I always feel bad when I glance up to find someone who has been waiting for my attention and has not received it in a timely manner simply because they were to polite to announce their presence.

  59. Great list man, I’ll admit that I do most of these, and I have always wanted to stop, but it’s so damn hard. We really have let our lives be taken over by technology, I don’t see our society ever getting better.

    1. I struggle with everyone of these from time to time. What I’ve found is that it’s actually easier than you think. It’s so hard to consider closing the laptop or silencing your phone, but once you do it, once you jump off that cliff, it’s so much easier to stay with the person.

    2. Danke Frollein Pssst! (ich benutze mal die Anrede vom Herrn Apjgnpüeler) und willkommen hier bei mir. Ich muss auch noch Punkte verteilen gehen :-D An wen, ist ja wohl klar

  60. It’s so annoying when customer service staff ignore you. I recently had the privilege of being ignored whilst they sent a sms. So rude!

    You make excellent points. Everyone should adhere to these guidelines.

  61. She just finished with that call and has to record something before she forgets it. So I waited. And I waited. Then I started to marvel. Around the three-minute mark it became an experiment: How long can she blatantly ignore my presence?

    Being ignored in this manner occurs in other contexts too. Retail comes to mind. Whenever I walk into a store–clothes, books, trinkets, sports, doesn’t matter–one of three things happen:

    1). I am greeted the moment one of my feet crosses over the threshold and am informed of any special sales.

    2). I am not acknowledged in any way–no eye contact, no “Hi! Welcome to such-and-such-store” resounding behind me, no mid-store “Can I help you?”. My presence is only addressed when I am two steps away from going back out of the store. It’s as if my intended departure is reason for me to exist…but not my entrance.

    3). I am acknowledged either through eye contact-nod-smile or the verbal greeting. When I do need help, though, the sales people are nowhere to be found. In fact, after letting me know they are aware I’m in the store, I actually become invisible because I never hear or see from them again.

    The second scenario happens most often.

    Tech etiquette is certainly important. I just wonder, though, maybe that receptionist would’ve behaved similarly in any other context. If she were a sales clerk, would she say “next in line” or are you supposed to creep up slowly to her register?

  62. I definitely hate how my dad CONSTANTLY ignores me when he’s watching movies on his laptop. I’ll walk in the room, and stand and stare at him(it’s lasted up to ten minutes, because if I SAY anything, he wants get act all annoyed) just to ask him a simple question!
    And now he gets upset if I don’t offer to make him any popcorn(It used to be, if I was going to make some, I’d offer to make him some too, but I don’t want to wait an extra ten minutes to find out I have to spend MORE time making extra popcorn!) D:_>

    And at work, oh good grief, don’t even get me started! Women are ALWAYS calling friend/family on the phone(presumably on the clock) while ALL I want to do in the bathroom is go pee or take a dump… Of course, if I’m taking a dump, I’m going to be a few minutes, so while I’m on the loo, I might check my texts really quick, but as for the women on the phone, I don’t care If I haven’t taken care of my business yet, I’ll flush the toilet to make a point, so perhaps those they’re talking to will be like “Are you in the BATHROOM!? o.0 EWW!”

    Another textual etiquette would be USE spell check! I know it won’t catch EVERY word, and not all phones support that, but if you have an alphanumeric keypad, use T-9, you’re less likely to misspell things.

    And also, CLEAN your phone! It is the germiest thing you own!

  63. It’s not only about etiquette either… we’ve become a nation that is on technology overload. Its all about convenience for people. But hiding behind your technology is escorting us into disaster, your steps are helping us step back from that as well. You said it perfectly (especialy step 10, eesh had that happen)! Thank you.

  64. Hey Geoff!

    Thank you very much for this article. It is not just my experience of being ignored, but also my fault of ignoring others with the use of technology. Sometimes if I want to zone off, the headphone is the best way to do it.

    However, I realize I fall short of not just etiquette, but compassion. If I care about people, I should close my computer, remove my earphones, and talk to the person I am with.

    More power to you.

    1. Thanks for your honesty. I too struggle with all of these, but I’ve seen remarkable results from trying to follow these rules.

      I totally agree about compassion – that and respect should be our guides.

  65. “If you’re working on your laptop and someone enters the room…”
    I not only entered the room, I was there to be interviewed!!! It was one of the most humiliating experience ever and it was with Microsoft Dublin!!!

  66. Another rule:

    Don’t take pictures/video record of inappropriate things in public! Mostly done on their phones. I have caught many creepers taking pictures of me on the train, and there is nothing I can do about it except yell at them and embarrass them. Or recording a couples spat and post it youtube? Or take pictures of a car accident (that you weren’t involved in). Or take a picture of a disabled person!!? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen this, its disgusting. Or even a homeless person… its sad and ridiculous.

    If you like someones shirt… ASK them if you can take a picture! More than likely, they won’t say no. Seriously, if need to document everyones embarassing/unfortunate moment and make it avaialble to millions of people, you need to get a new hobby.

  67. Good article. I think that is the downside to all this technology we use today. People have become rude and don’t even think about their actions.

    If someone would turn around and do the same to them they gripe but don’t see that they are doing it themselves.

    Hopefully, that will change.

  68. Nice list, but I think one crucial thing is missing – the cultural perspective. So much of business is cross border, and different rules apply in different contexts. For example, in some cultures multi-tasking is perfectly acceptable and part of daily life. One size will never fit all, and perhaps we shouldn’t expect it to.

    1. Evan, First off – thanks for being the first one in how many comments to push back a bit. Way to keep it interesting!

      I am going to push back myself, though (a bit). To me, this post isn’t about multitasking – it’s about people respecting other people. I’m actually a fan of multitasking (as a former attack helicopter pilot I know a thing or two about it). But when multitasking begins to quietly erode our relationships – intentionally or not – then it’s crossed a line and needs to be challenged.

      Let’s get specific: In American culture today, you can truthfully say that “multitasking is perfectly acceptable and part of daily life.” However, just because something is “perfectly acceptable and part of daily life” doesn’t make it right.

  69. Great Post. Technology is often given credit for enhancing our “connections,” but are we really connected to all those people on LinkedIn, FB, etc. or they just another list. Your post highlights the etiquette that we must follow to be able to make and maintain REAL connections. Thanks for sharing.

  70. there are so many blogs these days blaming everything on technology.every coin has two sides,and its just how we look at it that makes the difference.
    ….i really loved your line “It’s not the technology, it’s how we use the technology.” and totally agree to it!!
    couldnt agree more on the bluetooth device point.

  71. I’d suggest don’t even open your laptop in meetings even if it’s only to take notes. Sure, you might be ignoring the email etc, but having only a notepad and pen communicates alot of respect to everyone else in the meeting.

    Trindaz on fedang

  72. It annoys me to no end when I’m in a meeting with a group of people, and someone is sitting there with their phone checking mail or texting. But, I’m afraid I’m guilty of doing the same thing on conference calls. It’s not an overt lack of respect for those in the meeting like it would be in a conference room, but it’s still not giving everyone your full attention.

    1. I agree Rick – and thanks for stopping by!

      It’s that self-serving bias we all have: When I’m doing these things it’s innocent, but when someone else is doing them, it’s rude. Gets me every time.

  73. I completely agree. We’re in an age that is losing respect for each-other. It’s a shame when I’m mid-sentence with someone and they stop and look at their phone while I’m still talking. I’m sure I do it too to some extent, but I’m really trying to stop!

  74. Great post; its lessons are more pertinent than ever in this time of unrelenting stress both in and out of the workplace. Civility is not an option, not these days. Thanks so much for that important reminder. I’m bookmarking this post.

  75. This post IS great! In our high tech life we tend to shift the focus from live people to comminucation with a screen.
    Last year I was interviewed for a job. The interviewer was constantly typing something on his laptop, answering his e-mails or something, during our conversation. I was too shocked to protest against such behaviour, but I strongly decided not to work for the company.

    What I would add to the list is switching off the phone sound in public places like buses, cinemas, etc.

    1. Cinemas – of course! Not only the silencing the phone, but what about when someone decides to text right in the middle of the movie, turns their phone on, and floods the theater with light? Talk about taking me out of the moment.

      Thanks for the addition!

  76. Excellent post! I’m a huge fan of not bringing a laptop (or blackberry, or idevice, etc) to meetings at all. I’ve heard this referred to as going ‘topless. Really, unless you’re presenting, you don’t need one.

  77. great ideas – thanks!
    my phone rang while i was talking with a stranger just yesterday, i simply turned it off without looking to see who it was – the person i was speaking with looked at me in disbelief – “how could you ignore that call?,” seemed like the natural thing to me since i was already in a conversation with him!
    it’s just common courtesy, isn’t it??!!

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  79. Those damn walkers with music buds in ear. At least during walk head sets should not be used as it is dangerous. Some kids keep one head set on at all the time and ask you to repeat twice everything you say. This should be the eleventh element in your list.

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