I just returned from spending several hours basking in the sunlight, sitting in a comfy collapsable chair, reading The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by my new favorite author, Haruki Murakami.

All without a smartphone.

As I took pause to enjoy the sunlight shining on Onondaga Lake, I reflected back on what we sales dudes and dudettes did to stay connected with customers, prospects, and the home office, pre-mobile device days.

At my first job in the high tech theatre, selling personal computers for $3k – $5K a pop, I remember carrying lots of coin to make calls in good old fashioned telephone booths. It was either that or graciously asking a prospective client or customer if I could use their business phone.

In the late 80’s and early 90’s companies furnished us with telephone calling cards to stay in touch with the world. You’d hop on the phone of choice, enter your private card number, and  make your call. All paid for by the company. I thought this was the coolest thing back then and used the card a lot. 🙂

Somewhere in the mid 1990’s the corporate world decorated each salesperson with a mobile device, all paid for by headquarters. I used this new toy more often than was needed to check messages, check on prospects, check with the boss, and check in on the home front.

Up until seven months ago, I never owned a smartphone. A flip phone yet never a smart one. I didn’t see the need for one.

Why did I put off the inevitable? I saw a world where people care more about their devices than being present and in the moment.

Lately I’ve observed my mobile device habits and found I was also sliding into the same behaviors as everyone around me. Checking email, social media, news, stock market, etc. staring down at the cute flat screen, everywhere I go. And for what?  Turns out, nothing much.

I make a conscious effort to never look at the device when I’m in the presence of someone. For me, it’s all about respect.

This month I’ll ditch my VOIP service, which I’ve had for 10 years, and go exclusively with a mobile service and Skype for coaching calls, leading classes at Coach University, and personal calls.

We’ll see how I do in the transition.

Photo courtesy of Mike Dixson.

Today’s guest post is courtesy of Steve Keating (CME, CSE,) Selling Skills Manager for Toro Company. Steve splits his time in Minneapolis, the same home as the one and only Prince, and the warm confines and rugged mountainous and desert landscape of Phoenix, AZ.

I hope you enjoy his thoughts on smartphone etiquette. I certainly did.

Do You Own Your Smartphone? ~ Steve Keating

Do you own your smartphone … or does your smartphone own you? If your smartphone is really smart it would tell you when to put it down and pay attention to the world around you.

This “post” is almost as much of a rant as it is a post and it comes from something I saw just a few days ago. Now don’t get me wrong, I really really like my smartphone. I am what Apple would consider a “power user,” I have 257 apps (I just counted) on my iPhone and I even use it as an actual phone too. Some apps I use way more than others but they are all useful in some way.

As much as I use my phone I really try to NOT let it come between me and human interaction. I own it specifically to help me stay connected to other human beings. There are times and places I simply refuse to use it. I will not use it while dining, I will not use it while standing in line at a checkout counter in a store. (unless I’m using Apple Pay)

I will not use it anytime in a group where I would be even slightly annoyed if someone else were using their phone. I will not even glance at it in a movie theater. I will NOT TEXT or email while driving a car. As useful as a smartphone can be there is a time and place to use it. The time is NOT always and the place is NOT everywhere.

Common sense still applies and so do common human relations principles. It seems however that those two things are not so common anymore.

So, a few days ago I stopped by my usual gas station store to pick up a 52oz Diet Coke. (yes, I’ve heard that Diet Coke isn’t good for me) When I walked into the store I could see there was a line at the soda fountain machine. That is beyond unusual, there is never a line. As I got closer I saw the reason for the delay: there was a person at the soda machine on their smartphone gabbing away. Others were waiting their turn behind the person even though the person was not filling a soda cup, they were just talking on the phone.

When the woman immediately behind the person on the phone kindly asked them to step aside the person on the phone interrupted their call long enough to tell the person behind them to “wait their turn,” then they continued talking.

I’d only been in line 10 or 15 seconds but this was just too much for me. I went around the line and told the person on the phone to take the call outside and get out of the way. I’ll admit I didn’t say it pleasantly and it wasn’t said as a suggestion but come on. I don’t care how important the call was it does not allow for a complete and utter lack of common sense.

This uncommon occurrence is becoming all too common. Smartphones have become a two-edged sword, they can save time and they can make a person look inconsiderate and rude. Or maybe, just maybe, the person using it IS inconsiderate and rude and the smartphone just exposes those traits.

Smartphones are really only smart when the people using them are smart enough to know when NOT to use them. No matter how nice your smartphone is, no matter how much time it saves you, no matter how good a picture it takes you still need to make sure that you own it and that it’s not the other way around.

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