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Minding your BlackBerry manners
Minding your BlackBerry manners

By Dana Gornitzki

It seems that being reachable 24/7 has become the norm in the modern age. When a tiny personal digital assistant (PDA) such as a BlackBerry enters one’s life, it can become an obsession.

Yes, that technological wonder is compact and terribly convenient, but it is the source of many blunders against social graces (tsk tsk).

Advice on averting BlackBerry etiquette disaster is buzzing on the interweb these days. In a New York Times article debating modern devices and social graces, we read that “a spirited debate about etiquette has broken out. Traditionalists say the use of BlackBerrys and iPhones in meetings is as gauche as ordering out for pizza”.

In fact, some companies are already banning the use of PDAs in meetings, and it may just be the start of a trend.

Here are a few simple and commonsense etiquette tips:

- Switch that little device to silent when in a meeting or on a social engagement

- Use an email filter

- Turn the device upside down if you feel that it needs to keep you company and you must have it in view (like the pet or beautiful accessory that some people treat it as)

- Banish the cordless headset (for many reasons)

- No texts or emails during a meeting or dinner. Those can wait. They did before you had the “CrackBerry” so they can now, too.

- Check it in if you have the option and need the discipline. Last year, a hotel chain in the Americas introduced such a programme for PDA users who needed an intervention.

Here are a couple more that etiquette expert Linda Allan and office technology consultant Steve Prentice shared with the Globe & Mail:

- Talk rather than text, a phone call can often solve problems more quickly and completely.- Schedule text breaks at meetings by setting ground rules for checking PDAs. Instead of an outright ban, consider a 20-minute break in mid-meeting.

- Ask permission if you’re waiting for an important e-mail or call by letting others at the meeting know ahead of time that you’re expecting it.

Now, that we have those out of the way, let us take you back to a time not so long ago - in fact just a decade ago (when the first “CrackBerrys” were introduced: meetings could not be interrupted, people showed up on time, and (yes, yes) we actually paid full attention to the people we were with. No distractions, no excuses. Aaah.

So, kind Gentlepeople, be considerate and engage in some good old-fashioned politesse by putting that Blackberry away. Check it in, if you must.

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Dear M. de P.,
I am participating in a telephone interview tomorrow morning on this very subject for the Financial Times. I of course never know what I will channel during such an activity; however, I think looking at some of the psychological causes of the addiction to these devices may well come to mind. People with deep insecurities (low self esteem - Napoleon complex issues) and people with over active egos seem to be the most guilty and thereby attached to this new technological crutch. I find ‘crutches’ used socially or in business situations reveal a great deal about the inner workings of a person - where else do they require crutches? Some preliminary thoughts from someone who is so technologically challenged and resistant that he does not own nor is tempted to own such gadgetry…….yet.

  • jay Remer
  • 13 Aug, 2009
  • 11:51 pm

Dear Monsieur EG
Fantastic, I cannot wait to read your exchange with the esteemed journal. It already seems like we agree on many fronts about this topic of portable email gadgetry and the rudeness that so often accompanies it; these new technological devices almost seem like armour rather than simply crutches, as you say. Definitely a discussion I’d love to engage in with you. I must admit (and you may be surprised to learn) that I do - from time to time - carry a small gadget to retrieve digital missives. They are rather convenient, but you will always find the device in my bag and on silent so I have the choice of when I want/need to use it. To be honest, I’d much rather have a beverage (be it a martini or tea) in my hand and fully concentrate on the person(s) I’m speaking with. It’s not only civilised, but the correct and only thing to do. I find it completely admirable that you do not possess such gadgetry. After all, man and woman have survived without their existence for hundreds of years. Best of luck with the interview, and look forward to reading it.
Warm regards

  • Prunella de Pedant
  • 14 Aug, 2009
  • 10:52 am

[...] In the spirit of yesteryear’s etiquette announcements, cinema goers are gently reminded to switch off mobile telephones (and we - not so secretly hope that the same reminder will be extended for switching off one’s personal digital assistant). [...]

  • Cinema Etiquette - some lovely little reminders | MIEN Magazine
  • 21 Aug, 2009
  • 11:07 am

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