Pachter's Pointers:
Business Etiquette Tips & Career Suggestions


The Etiquette of Talking TO Your Phone

“…the etiquette of talking to a phone – more precisely, to a ‘virtual assistant’ like Apple's Siri in the new iPhone 4S – has not yet evolved."*

The above quote from Nick Wingfield’s recent article in The New York Times was a wake-up call to everyone who uses a smart phone.

When my book The Jerk With the Cell Phone (Marlowe & Company) was published almost eight years ago, etiquette guidelines for talking TO your phone were not relevant. Because of advances in technology, however, guidelines are needed today to help people talk politely to their phones in public.

Before I wrote this blog, I asked Siri for her opinion on the topic. My question was: “What are the etiquette suggestions for talking to your phone?” Alas, she didn’t have an answer and referred me to the web.

Here are my 6 suggestions for Talking TO Your Phone Politely:

Be considerate of others. This is the main etiquette suggestion, and, of course, it is applicable to all types of phones. Your use of the phone should never disturb others.

Don’t keep trying. If Siri doesn’t understand your request, try alternative wording. After two or three attempts, use the web. You don’t want to seem like a Sheldon from the television show The Big Bang Theory. (When Sheldon wants to speak with his neighbor, Penny, he has the annoying habit of persistently knocking on her door while repeating her name until she answers the door.)

Don’t yell. Use a quiet, conversational voice. Barking commands to a phone in public is annoying to others.

Respect quiet zones. If talking on your phone is not allowed, neither is talking to your phone.

Be aware of your surroundings. You never know who is listening. People eavesdrop. Don’t ask a question if you suspect the answer may give away information you don’t want others to know.

Don’t pretend. Don’t ask Siri to do something -- scheduling a (fictional) meeting with Mark Zuckerberg, for instance -- just to make yourself sound important..

*Virtual assistants listen to voice commands to send messages, set reminders, place phone calls, text others and answer your questions.


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    This is among the tenets of the professional virtual assistants in the field of outsourcing or the home based ones. Both can be profitable given the skills of multi-tasking.

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