Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 3, Issue 34;   August 20, 2003: Cellf Esteem

Cellf Esteem

by

Last updated: August 8, 2018

When a cell phone goes off in a movie theater, some of us get irritated or even angry. Why has the cell phone become so prominent in public? And why do we have such strong reactions to its use?

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.

Everyone check your cell phones

Everyone Check Your Phones - NYC. Photo by LaMenta3 / CC BY-SA.

"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.

Hang in there. Go to top Top  Next issue: Plenty of Blame to Go Around  Next Issue

Rick BrennerThe article you've been reading is an archived issue of Point Lookout, my weekly newsletter. I've been publishing it since January, 2001, free to all subscribers, over the Web, and via RSS. You can help keep it free by donating either as an individual or as an organization. You'll receive in return my sincere thanks — and the comfort of knowing that you've helped to propagate insights and perspectives that can help make our workplaces a little more human-friendly. More

Your comments are welcome

Would you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenmhXARWRMUvVyOdHlner@ChacxgDmtwOKrxnripPCoCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.

About Point Lookout

Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.

Point Lookout is a free weekly email newsletter. Browse the archive of past issues. Subscribe for free.

Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.

Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.

Related articles

More articles on Emotions at Work:

Shackleton, Scott and Wilson, of the British Antarctic Expedition 1902The Injured Teammate: II
You're a team lead, and one of the team members is suddenly very ill or has been severely injured. How do you handle it? Here are some suggestions for breaking the news to the team.
The John Hollis Bankhead Lock and Dam on the Black Warrior River in Tuscaloosa County, AlabamaFirst Aid for Wounded Conversations
Groups that meet regularly sometimes develop patterns of tense conversations that become obstacles to forward progress. Here are some ideas for releasing the tension.
A10 Thunderbolt II "Warthog"Not Really Part of the Team: II
When some team members hang back, declining to show initiative, we tend to overlook the possibility that their behavior is a response to something happening within or around the team. Too often we hold responsible the person who's hanging back. What other explanations are possible?
The Great Wall of China near MutianyuScope Creep and Confirmation Bias
As we've seen, some cognitive biases can contribute to the incidence of scope creep in projects and other efforts. Confirmation bias, which causes us to prefer evidence that bolsters our preconceptions, is one of these.
A wrecked automobileToxic Conflict at Work
Preventing toxic conflict is a whole lot better than trying to untangle it once it starts. But to prevent toxic conflict, we must understand some basics of conflict, and why untangling toxic conflict can be so difficult.

See also Emotions at Work for more related articles.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

The Bay of Pigs, CubaComing September 30: Seven More Planning Pitfalls: II
Planning teams, like all teams, are susceptible to several patterns of interaction that can lead to counter-productive results. Three of these most relevant to planners are False Consensus, Groupthink, and Shared Information Bias. Available here and by RSS on September 30.
Assembling an IKEA chairAnd on October 7: Seven More Planning Pitfalls: III
Planning teams, like all teams, are vulnerable to several patterns of interaction that can lead to counter-productive results. Two of these relevant to planners are a cognitive bias called the IKEA Effect, and a systemic bias against realistic estimates of cost and schedule. Available here and by RSS on October 7.

Coaching services

I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenmhXARWRMUvVyOdHlner@ChacxgDmtwOKrxnripPCoCanyon.com or (650) 787-6475, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.

Get the ebook!

Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:

Reprinting this article

Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info

Public seminars

The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power

Many The Power Affect: How We Express Personal Powerpeople 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.

Bullet Points: Mastery or Madness?

DecisBullet Point Madnession-makers in modern organizations commonly demand briefings in the form of bullet points or a series of series of bullet points. But this form of presentation has limited value for complex decisions. We need something more. We actually need to think. Briefers who combine the bullet-point format with a variety of persuasion techniques can mislead decision-makers, guiding them into making poor decisions. Read more about this program.

Follow Rick

Send email or subscribe to one of my newsletters Follow me at LinkedIn Follow me at Twitter, or share a tweet Subscribe to RSS feeds Subscribe to RSS feeds
The message of Point Lookout is unique. Help get the message out. Please donate to help keep Point Lookout available for free to everyone.
Technical Debt for Policymakers BlogMy blog, Technical Debt for Policymakers, offers resources, insights, and conversations of interest to policymakers who are concerned with managing technical debt within their organizations. Get the millstone of technical debt off the neck of your organization!
52 Tips for Leaders of Project-Oriented OrganizationsAre your project teams plagued by turnover, burnout, and high defect rates? Turn your culture around.
Go For It: Sometimes It's Easier If You RunBad boss, long commute, troubling ethical questions, hateful colleague? Learn what we can do when we love the work but not the job.
101 Tips for Effective MeetingsLearn how to make meetings more productive — and more rare.
Ebooks, booklets and tip books on project management, conflict, writing email, effective meetings and more.
Comprehensive collection of all e-books and e-bookletsSave a bundle and even more important save time! Order the Combo Package and download all ebooks and tips books at once.
If your teams don't yet consistently achieve state-of-the-art teamwork, check out this catalog. Help is just a few clicks/taps away!