Debrett’s is well-known for producing guides to traditional British etiquette. The publisher has come up with such gems as Etiquette for Girls, A-Z of Modern Manners and Debrett’s Guide for the Modern Gentleman.
So, if results of new research are correct, it is no wonder it has published a guide to mobile phone etiquette.
According to two studies, mobile phones can harm your relationships simply with their presence.
The research found that if a mobile can be seen during a conversation, it makes people feel less positive about the person they are talking to.
It could mean putting your phone on the table during a romantic dinner for two or a meeting with a friend could be a real social faux pas.
The findings are something Debrett’s, which was formed in 1769, couldn’t agree more with. Etiquette experts there devised a guide advising mobile phone users on how to do so politely.
Debrett’s key rules on mobile phone etiquette are:
Think about your ringtone. “If you’re embarrassed by your ringtone in certain situations (trains, the office, when you’re visiting your mother) it’s almost certainly the wrong choice.
Watch what you say and how loudly you say it. Make sure your mobile phone conversation is not disturbing other people. Don’t talk about personal matters or use foul language in front of others.
Respect quiet zones. Don’t use your phone in a designated quiet zone and, if you’re in a carriage of newspaper-reading commuters, respect the fact they are trying to have a peaceful journey.
Never shout. If you lose reception, just accept it rather than shouting into your device. Once your reception comes back, ring straight back, even if it’s only to say goodbye.
Pay attention to those you are with. “People in the flesh deserve more attention than a gadget,” says Debrett’s, “so, wherever possible turn off your phone in social situations.
If you are awaiting an important call when meeting someone socially, explain at the outset that you will have to take the call and apologise in advance. Don’t put your phone on the dining table or glance at it longingly mid-conversation.”
Don’t carry on with your phone call if you are in the middle of something else like buying food in the supermarket, a ticket on the bus or withdrawing money at your bank. “It is insulting not to give people who are serving you your full attention.”
It would appear then that the new research and Debrett’s are singing from the same hymn sheet. Psychologists at Essex University found leaving your mobile phone in full view triggers thoughts about wider social networks, reducing the level of understanding in face-to-face conversation.
According to lead researcher Andrew Przybylsi: “In both studies we found evidence mobiles can have negative effects on closeness, connection and conversation quality.”
Firstly, the team asked 37 pairs of strangers to spend 10 minutes chatting to each other about an interesting event that had happened recently. For half the group, a mobile phone was left nearby and, for the other half, a notebook.
Researchers found those who had chatted with the mobile phone visible were a lot less positive than the other group about the people they had just met. In a second study, some were asked to make small talk while others had to chat about “the most meaningful events of the past year.”
This time, having a meaningful conversation increased feelings of closeness and trust for people who were sitting beside a notebook but the same effect did not happen for participants who had a mobile phone close by.
So, if seems while Debrett’s can be seen as old-fashioned, it still has its place in the modern world.