The new rules of e-TECH-itte

Tracy Ferra

Imagine you’re standing in line at Holy Grounds, patiently waiting for your coffee, when the girl behind you pulls out her cell phone and launches into a lengthy account of her spring break exploits. You don’t want to hear it, but you’re stuck in line, so you have no other choice. Or, you’re trying to have a serious conversation while you’re with your roommate, and she’s instant messaging her boyfriend and not really paying attention. These situations are examples of technological etiquette blunders, and we’ve all been on both sides.

Technology is rapidly changing today, allowing us to contact virtually anyone, anywhere, at any time. And while these changes have greatly improved our lives and productivity, they make it easy for us to alienate and offend those with whom we standing face-to-face. Since many of us are heading towards the professional world where these tech etiquette blunders can have a serious impact on professional image, it is important to follow a few basic guidelines on staying polite while staying in touch.

Misuse of cell phones is the easiest way to commit technological fouls. Laurie Puhn, Harvard-educated communication expert and author of the blog “Rudeness, Interrupted,” offers a few helpful hints for proper cell phone use. She warns against having lengthy cell phone conversations in public, as no one wants to hear the dull details of your life. If you must have an extended conversation, lower your voice or leave the area if possible. And never answer your phone while in the middle of a face-to-face conversation with someone. According to Sprint’s Wireless Etiquette Survey, over 50 percent of people have been made to feel unimportant in these situations.

In the business world, cell phone etiquette becomes a significant issue during meetings and interviews. A CA Magazine study showed 88 percent of CIOs find it rude to hear a cell phone ringer during a meeting. And it should go without saying that you cannot answer phone calls or send text messages in these situations. Doing either makes you look disinterested and unprofessional.

And the last telephone blunder to avoid? Answering your phone while doing a million other things. This is the quickest way to ensure that you’ll be abrupt, rude or inattentive to your caller. You have voicemail, so use it.

E-mail is another area where we need a manners makeover. E-mail should be treated as a proper form of business communication; that means using appropriate greetings, grammar and spellchecking. The receiver may not be able to see you, but he or she still forms an impression of you based on your e-mail, so put your best foot forward. Don’t look sloppy or lazy.

E-mail should also not be used for serious situations that require face-to-face contact, or for conversations you are afraid to have in person. The receiver cannot see you, so the lack of voice tone and body language allows for misinterpretation. Whether you are quitting your job or dumping your boyfriend, these people deserve the respect of a face-to-face delivery.

Lastly, when e-mailing, try to avoid acronyms like “lol” and “btw.” These are pretty common examples of slang, but you never know when you’ll run across someone who is not familiar with them.

If you pay attention, you’re probably guiltier of these errors than you think. Be sure to keep these tips in mind next time you’re calling or e-mailing.