The waiter appeared. "Need a few more minutes?" When Jeff told him they were ready to order, the waiter turned to Molly. Just then her cell phone rang.
"Come back to me," she said to the waiter, and then to the phone, "Hello." The waiter continued around the table, and when he returned to Molly, she was still on the phone. She held up her index finger signing, "Just one second."
The waiter knew just what to do. He said to the table, "Let me know when she's ready," and headed off to place the orders. Somehow he must have known that everyone had to be back by One.
Jeff felt a little irritated with Molly — not only had she taken the call, but she had done so at the table.
Taking a call when you're with others is only one example of cellular rudeness. Here are a few more:
- Why do cell phones
turn otherwise courteous
people into oafs?Forgetting to turn off the ringer in a theater, at a concert, in a restaurant or lecture or workshop or meeting.
- Interrupting a conversation to look at your caller id to decide whether to interrupt your conversation.
- Talking on the phone in what would otherwise be a quiet place, disturbing the people around you.
- Talking while driving, dividing your attention so severely that you can concentrate on neither the conversation nor your driving.
When we notice these things, many of us become irate, even though we might not express our displeasure directly. Why do cell phones turn otherwise courteous people into oafs?
For some, it's about self-esteem.
- For cell phone offenders
- The cell phone can become a badge of importance. By letting the phone interrupt us (and the people around us) no matter what we're doing, we convince ourselves that the people who call us cannot manage without us.
- Most people can manage without us for a while. With rare exceptions, such as literal life-and-death situations, most calls can wait until we pick up our messages.
- For cell phone offendees
- When someone commits an act of cell phone rudeness, we can feel hurt or anger, and sometimes we express that anger in ways we regret.
- When you notice an attack of cell phone anger, remember that the rudeness you're experiencing is — most likely — beyond the awareness of the offender. If you can, tell the offender how you feel. Leave it to her or him to decide what to do about it.
When call waiting first appeared, we often used it inappropriately. We would interrupt a conversation no matter what, to find out what call was coming in. After a while, we learned better ways, and now many people don't check when their phone beeps that a call is waiting. We're just now learning about cell phones. In time, we'll learn how to handle them, too.
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More articles on Emotions at Work:
- Avoid Typing Under the Influence
- When we communicate, we can't control how other people interpret our communications. Accidental offense
is inevitable, and email is especially likely to produce examples of this problem. What can we do as
members of electronic communities when trouble erupts?
- The Uses of Empathy
- Even though empathy skills are somewhat undervalued in the workplace context, we do use them, for good
and for ill. What is empathy? How is it relevant at work?
- Coping and Hard Lessons
- Ever have the feeling of "Uh-oh, I've made this mistake before"? Some of these oft-repeated
mistakes happen not because of obstinacy, or stupidity, or foolishness, but because the learning required
to avoid them is just plain difficult. Here are some examples of hard lessons.
- Inappropriate Levels of Regard
- The regard we have for others as people is sometimes influenced by the regard we have for the work they
do. Confusing the two is a dangerous error.
- Make Suggestions Privately
- Suggesting a better way of doing things can sometimes backfire surprisingly and intensely. Making suggestions
privately reduces that risk, but introduces a different risk.
See also Emotions at Work for more related articles.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming January 22: Disjoint Awareness: Bias
- Some cognitive biases can cause people in collaborations to have inaccurate understandings of what each other is doing. Confirmation bias and self-serving bias are two examples of cognitive biases that can contribute to disjoint awareness in some situations. Available here and by RSS on January 22.
- And on January 29: Higher-Velocity Problem Definition
- Typical approaches to shortening time-to-market for new products usually involve accelerating problem solving. Accelerating problem definition can also help. Available here and by RSS on January 29.
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Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.