Mind Your Manners – Put the Phone Away

You see and hear them walking down the street, riding the subway and you even see them in their cars – everybody seems to constantly be on their smart phones. While they may have improved the way we communicate with some people, we must be mindful of how smart phones reflect how we communicate with others – especially in business. Fiona Collie, contributor with IE.com, writes about Minding our Smart Phone Manners in the following article.

Don’t let the size fool you. While smartphones may be small, they can have a big impact on your professional image.

Your electronic image — created when you use electronic devices such as smartphones and tablets — sends a strong message about you, says Linda Allan, a certified management consultant in Toronto who specializes in business behavior.  The way you use these devices demonstrates your level of professionalism, organizational skills and communication skills.

Follow Allan’s advice to ensure you avoid smartphone gaffes:

> Put it away
The best thing to do with your smartphone when you go to a meeting is to stow it.

Before you put it away, remember to turn it off or, at least, set it to “vibrate,” Allan says.

And when in a meeting or when speaking face-to-face with someone, it’s bad etiquette to be constantly checking your phone.

Resist the temptation to even glance at it, she says, by keeping it off the desk or table and out of sight.

> Be safe
Don’t text while walking; it’s dangerous.

“[People commit] all kinds of offensive and dangerous behavior,” says Allan, “as [they] conduct business on the move.”

People bump into others or step into traffic, she says, because they are looking down at their devices instead of at their surroundings.

Keep the smartphone in your pocket or purse as you walk.

> Resist the urge to text
For younger advisors in particular, Allan says, texting may seem the most logical way to communicate. But in a business context, that is not always the best idea.

When texting, we tend to drop salutations and signature lines, Allan says. And the messages are often informal. Instead, for a more professional tone, you should send an email or even call the person on your smartphone.

Texting is acceptable only when you know the client or colleague well, Allan says. And the text should be a quick message, such as one that alerts a colleague that you’ve left a meeting.

> Beware “shoulder surfers” and eavesdroppers
Your smartphone may seem like a portable office, but it’s important to be careful when you are not in a private setting.

In a public space, such as a bus or a train, Allan says, be cautious about confidential or sensitive information that fellow commuters might see or overhear.

If you must use your smartphone in a public space, she says, always check to see whether someone can see over your shoulder. As well, if speaking on the phone, be very careful about what you say.

> Avoid shorthand and slang
Always maintain a level of formality when using your smartphone to send emails.

Short forms and text slang can confuse or annoy clients who read your message on a computer, Allan says. As well, your client might view an abrupt message — which is common among smartphone users — as rude or dismissive.


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