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Posted by Tim Bryce on July 24, 2011

We all know how the shorthand used in texting is leading to some rather bad habits in terms of composition. some people find it difficult to string a few words together, but texting compounds the problem further by introducing bad habits in grammar and typographical errors. Recently though, I had a reader ask me about texting and common courtesy. She contended if you were in a meeting or having a lunch with someone, it would be rather rude to keep responding to text messages or taking phone calls. Her daughter argued it would be rude not to respond to the other person who sent the text message or called, and that the person at the meeting or luncheon should be more understanding.

This problem is a bit generational in nature. Baby Boomers and their elders tend to believe texting and cell phone calls during a meeting, particularly one-on-one, are rude. Generation Xers and Y don’t understand what the hubbub is all about. They have been trained to think in terms of multitasking, meaning to perform two or more activities in parallel. This may be fine for certain tasks on a computer, but bad if you need to perform something critical, such as driving. As an aside, the National Safety Council reported last December that 28% of traffic accidents occur when people talk on cell phones or send text messages (1.4 million annually are caused by cell phone conversations, and 200,000 are blamed on text messaging).

Aside from the dangers involved, texting or talking on a cell phone while in a meeting shows a lack of respect for the other person or persons present. It’s like saying, “This call or text message is more important than you are.” Young people may have been trained to accept it, older people do not. If you are going into an important meeting, such as a job interview, a performance appraisal, a sales presentation, or talking with a customer, it is wise to turn off the device and give the other person your complete attention. Conversely, if you are the other person and want the undivided attention of a person, ask them to turn off all communication devices for the duration of the meeting. If they are unwilling to do so, arrange another time to meet with them. They should get the hint rather quickly. I have also been in some meetings where people are warned they will be fined if they respond to a communication device during a meeting. Such is the price for learning common courtesy.

If you are waiting for an important call or message, something you cannot afford to miss, tell the other person in advance you are awaiting such a call and, if it comes during the meeting, to please excuse yourself as you do not mean any disrespect. Also, if the call or message does come, take it outside the meeting room. After all, nobody wants to listen to your business, regardless how important you think you are.

A couple of years ago I developed “The Cell Phone Pledge” which defines how I promised to use a cell phone. Basically, it is a pledge to myself stating I will not become subservient to technology, and that I refuse to acquiesce my social skills to it. So, is it rude to respond to a call or text message in a meeting? Well, if you are in a meeting with me, it is; but if you are in a meeting with other teenagers, probably not.

I suppose the next thing my readers will ask is if it is okay to text during sex. The answer is essentially no different than texting during a meeting; if you care about the other person, the answer is an emphatic “NO!” However, if you do not care about the other person, you are probably a hooker setting up your next appointment.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at

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Copyright © 2011 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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