The 7 Most Annoying Cell Phone Habits and How to Avoid Them

By: Maralee McKee, Manners Mentor

Today’s post came about because of a Slurpee®!

Every two weeks when we fill up the mom mobile with gasoline at the 7-11®, my boys look forward to getting their special slurpable treat. Honestly, it’s not my favorite five minutes. They manage to turn selecting a drink into a process more complex than divvying up funds for the national budget.

If you have children, see whether you know exactly what I mean.

First, there is the cup size dilemma. Then they go through about two lids each before they find one that fits without falling off. Then the big decisions have to be made starting with the flavor quandary. (Just one, or should two or three be mixed together to form their own special blend?) Finally, there’s the straw choice, one that they don’t enter into lightly. Purple? Yellow? Orange? Blue? Vital decisions behind them, they head to the register — happy slurping already in progress!

Meanwhile, I’m still at the Slurpee dispenser cleaning up the sticky mess that overflowed from the hole in the top of their lids onto the counter with about ten of the tiny, super thin, napkins they provide. The napkins that need to be replaced by a ShamWow.

But to see the smiles on their faces from such a simple treat makes it all worthwhile! So our “fill the tank” ritual will continue for many years, I pray.

Last Thursday, the boys and I were in line behind a lady buying quite a few items at a quick market: bread, milk, bacon, a magazine, soda, and the like. The whole time the cashier was ringing up the items, the customer was on her cell phone. She talked on and on without one word, glance, or acknowledgment to the cashier.

Once everything was rung up, she swiped her debit card, picked up her bags, and left the store. All with the cell phone to her ear, her shoulder lifted to hold it in place. Not one smile or syllable used to acknowledge the human in front of her she had just interacted with. The customer had made a decision, conscious or not, but crystal clear. The person on the phone was important; the associate was nothing more than a robot. She stripped the cashier of her humanity and relegated her to an ATM machine.

It was humiliating, and the effects quickly showed on the face of the associate.


And it’s happening more and more. Our society is wrapped up in its technology. I’m no exception. There’s nothing wrong with that per se, as long as we use it to extend our reach to real humans (connect with old friends on Facebook, make new ones on blogs and Twitter) and not to interfere with connecting with the human in front of us.

I’m a huge fan of my iPhone. It’s by my side during the day and recharging every night, ready for tomorrow. I check emails and send text messages and tweets with the best of them. I have pages of apps, and I watch YouTube on the go. I don’t plan on stopping. I do, however, keep one thing in mind. My ability to digitally connect with those out of sight isn’t a substitute for acknowledging or connecting with those within sight — stranger or friend.

The 7 Most Annoying Cell Phone Habits and How to Avoid Them

I easily could have made this post the 77 Most Annoying — but then it would have been too long.

So let’s start with these because they do happen so often. When we commit these technological acts, we’re sending non-verbal, visual messages stronger to those around us at the moment than just about anything we’re possibly saying to the person on the other end of the phone.

I’m not casting stones with these seven tips! That’s not my style. Allow me to admit my guilt in the past and my conscious effort to not commit them in the future!

1. When talking to someone in person, don’t glance down at your cell phone to see who’s calling or who just sent a message or email. Why? You break the “moment” with the person you’re with and you send the message, “Wait this might be something interesting, important, or needed.” Maybe it is, but what does that say about the person in front of you at the moment? The gracious thing to do is say, “Please forgive my phone; that will go to voicemail.” Then continue on.

2. If you think an important call or message might come while you’re with someone, apologize before looking. “Forgive me, Janet. I wouldn’t normally look, but Jason flew to Boston, and if this is Jason calling, he’ll need to give me info about his return flight.” Then deal with the call as quickly as possible. “Hello, Jason! Janet’s right here with me, but I wanted to make sure you’re fine.” This lets Jason know someone is in earshot of the conversation and that his wife needs to quickly get back to giving Janet her full attention.

3. Allow Janet to stay seated where she is. Your phone call is the interruption, so when possible, you would want to move out of her earshot. Hearing one-sided conversations is something that our brains haven’t evolved to deal with yet. This is a scientific fact I find incredibly interesting. Two-sided conversations have been overheard since the dawn of humanity. Our brains do a good job at tuning them out. Not so with one-sided conversations. The brain puts that noise in the same area where it stores pressing details. Overhearing one-sided conversations gives us the same stress level as having an unfinished to-do list with ten minutes left to complete it. We’re unnerved and anxious.

4. Cell phones aren’t for use in confined spaces. That means a check-out line, any waiting room (especially a doctor’s office, because so often people are nervous or ill in the first place, and it compounds the situation), a restaurant table, or a bathroom stall. Come on — the bathroom stall?! Can’t one of the two things (the call or the bathroom visit) wait just a moment? In all these places, it’s the responsibility of those receiving calls to excuse themselves and leave the area to take the calls.

5. In any meeting, it’s savvy and gracious to keep your phone off the table and off your lap. Give your full attention to the person speaking. Having your phone visible sends the message that you’re just waiting (maybe hoping) for it to ring.

6. When going through a drive-thru, excuse yourself for a moment from the person you’re talking to on the phone, put your phone down, and give your full attention to the person assisting you at the window.

7. When checking e-mail, tweeting, blogging, playing games, or doing anything electronic, stop for a moment when anyone enters your nearby space. Smile, make eye contact, and say hello, even if that person is a stranger sitting down next to you in a public waiting room. Why? This one is an easy answer: God created humans as his crowning achievement. We need to acknowledge each one we encounter!

It would be a joy to hear what you have to add to the list! In the comment section, share something with me you’ve done, or seen done, and how it affected other people. What gracious and ungracious ways have you seen the intersection of technology and people handled? I’m going to include your comments in the cell phone chapter in my book Personal Polish!

If you’re new, welcome! Thank you for reading! Drop me a line so we can meet, and enter your email address in the box below this post so you’ll receive every post!

Until next time, do what only you can do. Expand your influence and bless yourself and others by being authentically you…at your best!


Maralee McKee

About Maralee McKee

Maralee McKee is the founder of Manners Mentor. With her best-friend style, sense of humor, and knack for updating etiquette to meet our modern sensibilities, she has been referred to as "Sandra Bullock meets Emily Post!" Maralee shows you how to become the best version of yourself. No fluff. No pretense. Just you at your authentic best! The person you were always meant to be! To learn more about Maralee click on the "Meet Maralee" or "New? Start Here" links at the top of this page.

How a Lady Handles Texting — The 10 Best Practices for Texting

Keep these best practices for texting in mind, and with every text you send, you'll be communicating clearly and gaining...

Five Things to Do When Someone is Paying Attention to Their Cell Instead of You

When people are addicted to their cell phones, whether it's a real addiction or still at the point where it's a bad habi...

smartphone manners

Your Savvy Guide to Smartphone Manners

By: Maralee McKee, Manners Mentor Smartphone manners matter because our smartphone matters to us. It holds many o...

Buy Manners that Matter for Moms now!