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Liggy Webb

Liggy Webb

Presenter & Author

Read more about Liggy Webb

Mobile manners – make sure you’re minding yours!


A while ago I was doing some work in Geneva and talking to one of the participants in my group about the importance of the relationship with their line manager. She looked at me rather sadly and said “Well my line manager certainly doesn’t value or respect me.” I asked her for an example of why she thought this and she told me this story about her last performance review.

During the appraisal her manager had kept her mobile phone on the table and whilst they were discussing her performance she was very conscious that her manager kept looking at her phone. About half an hour into their discussion the phone starting flashing and her manager took the call. She then informed her that they would have to reschedule her performance review because something more important had come up…

I took her point about not feeling valued or respected.

I even spoke to someone yesterday who said that during a visit to their GP he kept checking his phone during their consultation. Isn’t it incredible how a small mobile device can create such a massive intrusion into our lives and relationships?

Last year I read an amusing story about a Taiwanese tourist who had to be rescued after accidentally walking off a pier in the Australian city of Melbourne while checking her Facebook page. Police were alerted to the incident by a witness and rescued her in a speedboat after about 20 minutes. She was still out in the water laying on her back in a floating position because she told the police later that she couldn't swim. Her mobile phone however was firmly clutched in her hand and she had kept hold of it throughout the entire ordeal…

For many people it would be difficult to imagine a life without a mobile phone, or for some, even two or in extreme cases, three. It is the most common artificial appendage and whilst there are a multitude of obvious benefits there is also the need for people to observe mobile manners and develop a personal code of conduct.

These days mobile phone capabilities seem endless. Whilst making calls is the primary function, now you can surf the internet, take photos, record videos, download entire libraries of information and navigate your way around the world with Google Earth. With apps galore we are just waiting for the next amazing function.

Mobile phones can also however cause accidents, be a source of immense irritation and have a detrimental effect on interpersonal communication.  So often now if a mobile phone bleats its owner will bow to its beck and call. How many times when you are with someone do you feel marginalised by their technological gadgets?…You may, if you are lucky get a “Oh sorry do you mind if I just take this call?” More often than not your sentence will be left in midair as something more interesting for your companion comes along.

I find it quite challenging in learning environments to get participants to put their mobile phones away. Even during brief presentations I find it extraordinary how many times people feel the need to keep checking their phones. Also in meetings why is it acceptable for people to check their emails? Would they bring their morning post in and start opening it in front of everyone and expect that to be acceptable?  

So, wouldn’t it be great if every mobile phone came along with a little book of mobile manners that everyone adhered to.

Mobile manners – 10 top tips

I have compiled a list of tips that will help you to manage your mobile and set the example for others to embrace too:    

  1. Do make the person you are with feel more important than your mobile phone. Be present when you are with people. Switch your phone to silent, or better still, off, and put it away.
  2. Be mindful about not developing a dependency on constant communication. It simply is not healthy. Do you really need to have your phone with you all the time?
  3. Take off your earpiece when you are not on the phone. This will stop you from looking a bit silly. Plus, who wants to talk to someone who is so obviously on call alert.
  4. You don’t need to speak louder into your mobile than any other phone you use. These gadgets have incredibly sensitive microphones. Honestly!
  5. Answer your phone as soon as it goes off. Not everyone wants to listen to a mobile phone ringing for ages, even if your latest ring tone sounds 'cool' to you.
  6. Be aware that people around you are listening if you answer your phone in public. Not everyone wants to hear what you are saying to someone else and could find it offensive, embarrassing or just plain boring.
  7. Absolutely under no circumstances use your mobile phone when you are driving. Let’s face it some people have a problem mastering vehicles and phones individually let alone trying to multitask the two together. This is a recipe for disaster.
  8. The ultimate display of etiquette has to be not using your mobile phone on the loo. Need I say more ……………….
  9. Be the change you want to be – you may not be able to change other people’s behaviour around technology however you can make a difference if you set an example yourself.
  10. Take a technoholiday – Factor some time into your life to take a holiday from technology and create some space and freedom so that you can be a Human Being rather than a Human Doing.

5 Responses

  1. Emergencies

    Technology has its place, and an obvious advantage to having a mobile phone

    is the case of emergencies (when they may be invaluable) – and there are certainly professions (eg health care workers on call) when they may be life saving – then I am  not advocating going back to the days of 'Call the Midwife'!

    But for the overwhelming majority of people, do we really have to be always connected just in case of an emergency? 

  2. Great write up. depending too

    Great write up. depending too much on technology is clearly not helpful and every person is to be valued and important. Got questions though:

    1. Does it mean the caller is not important? Is the Phone is the focus or is it  the person. A person just like the one you are with.

    2. In case there is an emergency call that will prevent a disaster/ save a life what happens when you phone is off?

    I guess there are other things that need consideration. the context is also quite important…

  3. Mobile Manners

    Hi Liggy,

    You may remember we met at the Stress and Performance conference in Exeter in 2012.

    I really enjoyed your article. Having frequently suffered loud mobile users on trains, I absolutely agree with you. Your list of dos and don'ts was long over due. Well done! And thank you



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Liggy Webb

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