May 5, 2009

In Social Settings, Keep Cell Phone Talk To A Minimum

If you roll your eyes when people are chatting away on their cell phones in a public place, you're not alone. According to an expert at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, public cell phone use at times shows disrespect and may impede social interaction.

"Depending on the situation, cell phone use can be problematic," said Dr. Catherine Romero, assistant professor in the Menninger department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at BCM.  "The manner in which you do it can also have an impact."

Talking on your cell phone while at a social event can unintentionally convey to those around you that their time is not as important as yours, said Romero. This is also true for texting or browsing through your blackberry. Nonverbal behavior such as lack of eye contact can convey a negative message.  

In a public situation, loud cell phone talk can intrude on others' privacy and need for quiet. Sharing too much information on the cell phone in a public area can also make others feel uncomfortable.  At times, it can even be dangerous. "If you're using your cell phone in the car or other times you need to be paying attention, you are putting yourself and others at a greater risk," she said.

Those who are talking on their cell phones are also less likely to make contact with others around them, said Romero. It could be keeping them from forming social connections.  

Romero suggests talking in a quiet voice if you must make a phone call, or excusing yourself to take a call and making it brief. Unless the atmosphere is very casual, she suggests not accepting non-urgent calls. It's important to be mindful and respectful of others around you, said Romero.

If someone around you is disturbing you with their cell phone conversation, Romero suggests gently approaching them and asking them to reduce their volume. It's important to convey that you are not angry. If they refuse, remove yourself from the situation.

"Many times, people may not even be aware of how loud they actually are," said Romero. "So try and give them the benefit of the doubt, and treat them how you want to be treated." 


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