CELL PHONE etiquette



  • Tell callers when you're talking on a mobile so they can anticipate distractions or disconnections. 
  • If you drop a call, call back. It’s respectful behavior.
  • Text or take a call only when you're standing still or sitting and out of everyone’s way. Don’t stop in the middle of the sidewalk or walkway.
  • Move to a more private location.
  • If you are in a public place when you answer, let the caller know it is not a private call. People around you will hear at least half the conversation. Ask yourself, “Would I have this conversation in front of my parents or boss?”
  • Maintain at least a 10-foot zone away from anyone while talking. If you are standing too close to others, it may force them to overhear what is being said. People around you don't really want to hear your personal conversations.
  • Consider not talking on the phone in any enclosed space because it’s easy to hear, even if you're more than 10 feet away from anyone.
  • Assume that people will make judgments about you based on the information you are sharing in public over a cell phone.
  • Never have an emotional conversation on your cell phone in public, ever.
  • Keep your voice low. Because we have a hard time hearing we assume the person at the other end doesn’t hear us either, which is not true. And you don’t need to startle or invade those around you by being too loud on your mobile.
  • Don't put your phone on speaker in public. Just as no one wants to hear your end of the conversation, they don't want to hear the other person's either.
  • Don't talk or text when you are in the company of someone else. It makes the person that you're with feel unimportant.
  • Let people know ahead of time if you are expecting a call and why you need to take it. Be clear about how long it will take, and make sure that’s OK so they can choose to stay or leave. It’s a negotiation for interruption.
  • If a call interrupts a conversation, apologize, and ask permission before stepping away to answer. Otherwise it’s like walking away from a friend with no explanation while he or she is trying to talk with you. Would you like that?
  • If it's an emergency, take the call. Establish a code with loved ones. Ask when you answer, "Hi, is this an emergency?" If it’s not, say you will call back later and hang up immediately. It’s teaching boundaries when you do.
  • When leaving a message, let others know when they can reach you so you have more control over the timing and are less likely to be interrupted.
  • Don't use loud and annoying ring tones that destroy concentration and eardrums for everyone
  • If a phone must be left on in a public space, put the ringer on silent or vibrate.
  • Watching videos, playing games with sounds, or playing music without headphones is a disruption in any public space, so you should always mute the sound.
  • Ask permission before taking pictures of others. Otherwise, you are invading their privacy, no matter whether it’s funny, interesting, etc.
  • Ask permission before posting pictures of anyone else even if you are in the picture. This is a legal issue that can be very impactful.



  • Turn off phones at the breakfast/dinner table so you have time to connect face to face. It’s vital for your physical health, as well as mental well-being.
  • Turn off phones during family time or important conversations.
  • Whenever you are doing a family event, have everyone turn off his or her phone so you can be together and not be interrupted. If a friend barged in with your permission, don’t you think the rest of your family would get angry with you? When you answer your phone, you are inviting the caller into the room.
  • Charge phones away from the bedroom or wherever you hang out the most
  • Remove the phone from the bedroom at night so that the sound and electromagnetic frequency and radio frequency (EMF/RF) do not disturb sleep. EMF/RF disturbs melatonin production, which affects sleep.



Never take a cell phone call or text during a business meeting. This includes interviews and meetings with co-workers or subordinates. If you are there to meet with someone, you do not want your friend or coworker to walk into the middle of the meeting, which is essentially what happens when you answer your phone. Turn it off!



Put away your phone when you come to a cross walk. If you want to stay safe, you need to scan for cars, and you can’t do that if you have your attention on your mobile. You cannot assume that a crosswalk keeps you safe or allows you to be seen by the drivers. Other cars can block the view of you crossing. Or if you are wearing dark clothes at night, you might not be seen until it’s too late. Cars are bigger and more solid than you, and they will always win in an encounter.



Don’t take a call in your car without pulling over. Although cars are usually considered private spaces, taking a call while driving requires your attention to move back and forth from driving to the call. You need ALL your attention while driving to avoid hitting others on the street. A number of jurisdictions ban cell phone use while driving unless a hands-free system is used, and even then it can still be a distraction. 



Here’s a list of places that are inappropriate for cell phone use. Turn off your phone.


Live performances
Movie theaters
Places of worship
Planes in flight

Subways, commuter trains
Taxicabs, cars, buses
Waiting rooms
While visiting relatives


In general, to protect yourself and others from EMF/RF, turn off your cell phone inside buildings. See my articles on Safer Cell Phone Use and EMF & RF Information.

I let others know times and numbers where they can reach me directly or ask them to leave me times when I can reach them. I encourage you to do the same.

I also encourage you to inform everyone in your mobile address book that you've just adopted new rules for mobile manners and share them. Ask them to do likewise. Please.

For your protection, demand quiet zones and phone-free areas at work and in public venues, like the quiet cars on the Amtrak Metroliner.