Manners Matter Two

What to do about a cell phone addict

By Ron Ross

Rudeness happens when you are with someone who is obsessed with his/her high-tech device such as a cell phone or tablet. How loudly can I say this: CONSTANTLY CHECKING YOUR CELL PHONE FOR TEXT MESSAGES WHILE VISITING WITH SOMEONE IS RUDE!


A couple of years ago Nokia commissioned a study that found the average smartphone user checked their phone 150 times during the 16 hours they were awake. That means they were distracted from whatever they were doing every six minutes! In the digital world a two-year-old study is an old study so what do you bet the average smartphone user checks it twice that amount today?

How do you deal with people who have their right hand permanently stuck to their cell phone? Here are some suggestions:

Start with politeness – ask them courteously if they could stop looking at their cell phone for a few minutes “so we can talk.”

If that doesn’t work pause your speech every time they look at their phone. If they have any sense of propriety they might get the hint.

If that doesn’t work ask them if they have something important they must deal with. It is possible they have a legitimate reason to check their phone.

If that doesn’t work try a little humor. Get out your cell phone and take a picture of them checking their cell phone and text it to them with the message, “Would love to talk. Drop by sometime!”

If that doesn’t work try the direct approach. Say to them, “I really like talking to you but do you need to be somewhere else?” Their response will be something like, “Oh no – man I’m glad to be here – this phone you know…” And you can say, “I would sincerely appreciate it if you put your phone down and joined in on the conversation. Do you think that is possible?”

The last thing you can do is to exit the room or space without comment and without rancor. After all, they were the one who suspended the conversation in favor of reading a joke sent to them by a Facebook friend.

If you host a party you will have the problem of more than one cell phone addict. Here is a suggestion I heard about: as your guests arrive demand nicely and with a winsome smile that all cell phones be checked at the door. Put them in a basket and place the basket in a closet. Many attendees will really like the idea. Some won’t, but stand strong.

A similar approach is taken by a group of executives who meet for lunch regularly. As soon as they are seated they all place their cell phones on the table. The first person to look at or pick up their cell phone pays the tab.

There is one easy and polite way o deal with cell phones: While at lunch with a client our conversation was so interesting that both of us ignored the dings and vibrations coming from our cell phones. As we finished our meal and our conversation died down it was time to go. I said, “Tell you what Jack; let’s check our cell phones before we leave, ok?” We both grabbed our phones and stared at them for a few minutes. That is the polite thing to do.

For more please visit where you will also find contact information for Dr. Ross.

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