TMN’s 19 Phone Rules

 

Phones hold a special place in our world.

We can reach people in places and ways that were previously not possible.

They let us get things done.

However, they also have the power to disrupt. And to interrupt.

Just like any technology they can be used for good and evil.

Do you use your phone to run your life? Or does your phone run you?

Phones, Phones, Everywhere

These days, phones pretty much rule our world.

If you leave home without your phone, what do you do?

You turn around and go get it, of course.

Many of us can’t imagine a day without our phones. We would feel naked. Unarmed. Unprepared.

How did we get by without our phones before?

Yet, phones are also one of the biggest interrupters in our daily lives.

We let our phones constantly interrupt us. Rings, beeps, chirps. Calls, texts, tweets.

You name it, we let our phones interrupt us at any point in the day.

In fact, many consider it rude not to answer a call or respond to your phone.

It’s not polite to answer your phone, “Hello, do you really need to be calling me right now?”

However, we need some sanity. Some etiquette and manners, really.

Here are “19 Phones Rules” to help you rule your phone… instead of the other way around.

TMN’s 19 Phone Rules

  1. Call Me if Something is Important – When something is important, by all means call me. That is what phones are for. When you absolutely need to reach me now, ring my phone. Don’t send me an email when something is on fire, or when something is timely.
  2. Reach Out and Touch Someone – Don’t call someone when you can walk down the hall and see them. I have seen executives in offices separated by only a few feet call each other to discuss important matters. In person is always better when you are in the same location.
  3. Don’t Answer That Phone – We are Pavlovian dogs when our phones ring. We answer them no matter what we are doing. We run to answer them. (Ever hurt yourself trying to get to a ringing phone?) We drop anything we are doing to answer them. I have heard people answer their phones in the bathroom. You don’t need to answer your phone, they will leave a message or call back. Trust me.
  4. People Are Not Paying Attention on Your Conference Calls – Phones are powerful tools that allow us to collaborate with teams near and far. They have changed the business world in this regard. However, most conference calls are a mess and most employees are not paying attention. Ever hear people doing things in the background on your calls? I recently heard someone checking out at McDonalds.
  5. If You Don’t Leave a Message, You Didn’t Call – If you call and need something, then by all means leave a message. Otherwise, I don’t know what you needed and will assume that you changed your mind about calling me.
  6. Vibrate is Not Silent – Ever been in a meeting where everyone’s phone keeps vibrating every 10 seconds and dancing across the conference table? Yes, we can hear that, and it is very annoying. Silent means silent.
  7. You Can Turn It Off – Most people don’t believe this, but all phones still have an off switch. (Or you can simply put it in Airplane mode). We have been conditioned to be so concerned about “missing” something that we forget this.
  8. You Don’t Need Email on Your Phone – Our phones are so much more than phones these days. Email, web and more. But, if you are checking your email on your phone every 5 minutes, you are just creating even more interruptions for yourself. Try turning off your email on your phone, it will do wonders for your productivity.
  9. Texting While Driving is Stupid – Don’t do it. Enough said.
  10. You Don’t Need to Google Life – We all know this situation. Someone mentions something in conversation and someone pulls out there phone to immediately look the topic up on Google or Wikipedia. You don’t really need to Google everything that happens. You are just interrupting the thing we call “life.”
  11. Check Your Weapons at the Door – There are some places where phones are better left outside. Meeting rooms. Restaurants. Movie theaters. Leave your phone outside. Want to make your next meeting more productive? Collect phones in a basket at the door.
  12. Talking on Your Phone While Driving – OK, this is simple. If you want to drive and talk on the phone, get a headset. When you get dangerously cut off, why is it always by somebody who has their phone mashed up against their face and one hand on the steering wheel?
  13. Take it Outside – You are not the President, and thus you do not need to answer your phone in a restaurant. Be polite enough to go outside with your call. People with manners do this. This applies to any other group setting where other people do not need to hear your call.
  14. Don’t Knock Twice – Ever have someone ring your phone twice in less than a minute? Or call your desk and then your mobile? Don’t knock twice. If I don’t answer, it is for a reason. Leave me a message and I will get back to you.
  15. Don’t Call if an Email Will Do – Use the communication method that is most appropriate to the priority of your message. (See Rule #1) If you are asking a simple question that can wait, then email or some other medium might be a better way to reach out. Ask yourself, do you really need to interrupt the person right now?
  16. Change Your Voicemail – “You have reached 555-1234” is not a voicemail msg. If you are not creative, try, “You have reached <insert name>, leave me a message, and I will get back to you.”
  17. Having a Beyonce Song as Your Ringtone is Not Cool – Unless you are 16, you do not need pop music as your ringtone. Even worse are ringback tones, the ones that play while you are waiting for someone to answer their phone. I was calling a business contact the other day and was unimpressed when I had to listen to rap music while the phone rang.
  18. Check Your Voicemail – If I bother to leave you a message (see Rule #5), that means I had something to tell you. Not checking your voicemail is as bad as not reading your email. An executive recently told me that he didn’t check voicemail. Then, why do you have it?
  19. I Don’t Have to Return Your Call – This one upsets some people. But, just because you chose to interrupt my day does not mean that I am required to call you back. I may respond to you via email or text message if that is more appropriate. Or I may not call, if there is not a reason to do so.

Follow the Rules

Phones are great. They have changed our lives in many positive ways.

However, they can also cause much stress and disruption.

In a world where phones dominate our lives, we need to remember that phones are there for our convenience.

So, please respect the rules.

And then, by all means, call me… I want to talk to you.

What are your phone rules?

32 thoughts on “TMN’s 19 Phone Rules

  1. I think you need to add ‘obsessively checking your phone’. This is a few of your points wrapped into one larger one. Whether you have email or Facebook updates – we’re all a bit guilty of doing it when we’re bored or when we have a moments we think are free. You can miss interesting things in those few moments.

  2. Great list.
    NEVER answer the phone at dinner time with the family or your partner. Let them leave a message and get back later.
    Cut off telemarketers quickly, politely and firmly disconnect. Ask to be removed from their list.
    Set up your voicemail to be redirected to your email, so you can manage all messages in one single list.

  3. I think you need to add ‘obsessively checking your phone’. This is a few of your points wrapped into one larger one. Whether you have email or Facebook updates – we’re all a bit guilty of doing it when we’re bored or when we have a moments we think are free. You can miss interesting things in those few moments.

  4. Great list.
    NEVER answer the phone at dinner time with the family or your partner. Let them leave a message and get back later.
    Cut off telemarketers quickly, politely and firmly disconnect. Ask to be removed from their list.
    Set up your voicemail to be redirected to your email, so you can manage all messages in one single list.

  5. This is absolutely brilliant! Nothing more to say as you covered all the bases. I’m definitely going to pass this along to my family, friends and peers.

  6. Wonderful suggestions…funny how much of it stems from good old fashioned etiquette. Something too many of us have long forgotten.

    That said, I’d like to add to number 12.

    The part of the brain we use to listen and understand what is being said (auditory processing) to us is the same part we use to understand what is going on around us (visual processing). If you are having a serious discussion (listening to the news/book on CD/etc) it is best to pull over or let someone else drive and prevent an accident. Distracted driving of any kind is dangerous.

    1. @DariceJoy Darice, I agree. Where has etiquette gone? People seem to have no concern for those around them. Amazes me when people not only let their phones ring in restaurants but have no issues answering and having a loud conversation.

  7. Wonderful suggestions…funny how much of it stems from good old fashioned etiquette. Something too many of us have long forgotten.

    That said, I’d like to add to number 12.

    The part of the brain we use to listen and understand what is being said (auditory processing) to us is the same part we use to understand what is going on around us (visual processing). If you are having a serious discussion (listening to the news/book on CD/etc) it is best to pull over or let someone else drive and prevent an accident. Distracted driving of any kind is dangerous.

  8. Thanks for these great reminders — seems like they would be common sense, wouldn’t it? It’s sad that some of these rules are so blindingly apparent to some and completely ignored by others. I have an iPhone, and I’ve seen a lot of what you’ve listed: obsessively checking emails/Facebook/Twitter/Foursquare/Googling everything mentioned, ever/never turning off your phone, etc. Going to have to send this off to…just about everyone I know, sadly.

    1. @annedreshfield Anne, yes, most of them seem like common sense…

      …but then why are we constantly dealing with them? 😉

  9. Thanks for these great reminders — seems like they would be common sense, wouldn’t it? It’s sad that some of these rules are so blindingly apparent to some and completely ignored by others. I have an iPhone, and I’ve seen a lot of what you’ve listed: obsessively checking emails/Facebook/Twitter/Foursquare/Googling everything mentioned, ever/never turning off your phone, etc. Going to have to send this off to…just about everyone I know, sadly.

  10. @annedreshfield Anne, yes, most of them seem like common sense…

    …but then why are we constantly dealing with them? 😉

  11. @DariceJoy Darice, I agree. Where has etiquette gone? People seem to have no concern for those around them. Amazes me when people not only let their phones ring in restaurants but have no issues answering and having a loud conversation.

  12. Nice list!

    Imagine the days when we didn’t have mobile phones. In fact, when I was a kid, we had these rotary dial telephones at my home and that’s how I started using this great technology for the first time 🙂

    One thing that I would like to add to the list is taking others into account when you are having your phone call. This is especially true, when travelling by using public transportation.

    It is very annoying to listen to someone talking out loud all the events that happened during the day, the illnesses he/she has and things that I really don’t care about hearing.

    In those situations it is important to remember, that others will hear what you are saying – even if you talk to someone else on the phone.

    Timo

  13. Nice list!

    Imagine the days when we didn’t have mobile phones. In fact, when I was a kid, we had these rotary dial telephones at my home and that’s how I started using this great technology for the first time 🙂

    One thing that I would like to add to the list is taking others into account when you are having your phone call. This is especially true, when travelling by using public transportation.

    It is very annoying to listen to someone talking out loud all the events that happened during the day, the illnesses he/she has and things that I really don’t care about hearing.

    In those situations it is important to remember, that others will hear what you are saying – even if you talk to someone else on the phone.

    Timo

  14. Love this list. I actually hate talking on the phone, and usually screen my calls. So my favorite entries on the list are 15 and 19. I often respond to voice mails with an email, but sometimes feel guilty about it. Thanks for backing me up!

  15. Love this list. I actually hate talking on the phone, and usually screen my calls. So my favorite entries on the list are 15 and 19. I often respond to voice mails with an email, but sometimes feel guilty about it. Thanks for backing me up!

  16. It amazes me how many people these days can’t do anything without having a phone stuck to their ear, even when they have company.

    Excellent points and very good reminders, Craig. Thanks for sharing.

  17. It amazes me how many people these days can’t do anything without having a phone stuck to their ear, even when they have company.

    Excellent points and very good reminders, Craig. Thanks for sharing.

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