Mobile Phone Etiquette: How do you stack up?

Nowadays, it seems we are always on our phones. I often see a group of people sitting and eating together – each of them consumed by their smart phone – and I wonder why they wanted to get together in the first place since they aren’t even speaking! As a result of increasingly less direct human contact, I worry that people of all ages are losing sight of critical social norms and interpersonal skills.

 

 

As clients and friends often ask us about mobile phone etiquette, here are a few good tips to remember:

 

Be Courteous. A good smartphone user should be courteous, thoughtful, and always respect of others around him or her. You can do this by controlling the volume of your voice, so no one is forced to listen to your conversation. When you’re in a public place, set your phone to silent or vibrate mode to minimize disturbing others – and do not watch movies or listen to music with the sound up loud!

 

Be Safe. Don’t text and drive! No message is more important than your life. If you receive a call while you’re in a loud place, ask the caller if you can call them back. Because of the noise, your distraction level may make you move about without thinking (and walk into fountains or oncoming traffic!).

 

Be Mindful and Present. When you’re meeting with someone at a coffee or dinner situation, do not text or check social/email updates. Try to be as present as possible, and if you must check, do it briefly and acknowledge it vocally for a moment before you type away. And always remember, it is never proper to make others wait for you to finish a personal call: wait staff, friends or colleagues.

 

Constant multitasking can make our brains feel overworked (because they are), and constant phone use creates a cycle of dependence on notifications, rings and buzzes that provide little more than information.

 

How do you maintain good etiquette while using your mobile phone.. at work? With your kids or parents? Share with us….

Your Flexibility with International Business Norms

When traveling for business internationally, it is not unusual to run into snags and surprises. Some of the most frustrating challenges can come in a business context – yet often, these can become moments where we can learn something new, and shine.

 

Some countries require an unusual amount of paperwork to even consider traveling to the country. Multi-page forms, visa applications, reference letters only accepted via global snail-mail are but a few examples of challenges that business travelers run into when planning visits to countries on nearly every continent.

Other countries have very specific norms with deliveries. Sending a package containing gifts to another business in Brazil is a taxable event for the receiver of the gift! Receiving a package in Germany may be delayed by several days until each item in the package is sorted in customs and a value-amount is declared for each. Some countries’ delivery times are very limited on certain days of the week, which can create unexpected delays around holidays and long weekends.

 

Adhering to business dress codes can also cause a good bit of anxiety for travelers, especially for someone who hasn’t been to said country before. Are white pants on men ok outside of Latin America? Are women expected to wear skirts to business meetings in Japan and the Middle East? For those in the creative industries, when is business-casual “too casual”?  Answers to these questions may vary depending on your industry, meeting purpose, and time of year!

 

The most important way to de-stressify is to do your homework with plenty of time before your trip.  Before you take off, try to schedule some time to research potential snags in the country you’re traveling to. Having a quick call with a friend or expat who has spent significant time there is a very good idea, time providing. Whatever you do, make sure to always breath deeply and keep an open mind; this will help you to observe the humor, beauty, and processes that make other cultures flow!

 

How do you maintain a sense of humor and de-stress with travel surprises?

Your Gestures: Lost in Translation?

When traveling for business internationally, there can be many challenges. Perfecting your presentation to clients/colleagues, making sure you make your flight on time, remembering the country code when dialing, ensuring you have enough local currency – these being but a few common headaches to figure out.

Photo by Nghia Le on Unsplash

 

While there will be many challenges you’ll have to deal with ad-hoc, there is one area where advanced research is critical before you travel: Gestures. Did you know that in Brazil and Greece, the “Ok” sign is considered vulgar or obscene? Or did you know that in Japan and southern France, the same symbol means “worthless” or “zero”? And, in Australia and the Middle East, the “thumbs up” gesture means “Up yours!”, which isn’t something you’d ever want to say in a business scenario.

 

Style of communication is also important to consider. In Germany, for example, native-Germans speak in a very matter-of-fact style. Unless you are 100% fluent in German, do not use allegories, analogies or coded language as it will not get you anywhere (even when trying to make a joke!). Ask for exactly what you want, and say what exactly you mean. It will be better for everyone

 

Before your trip – conducting Internet searches, picking up a guidebook for the plane, or having a brief conversation with your host/guide can be tremendously beneficial. Doing your research ahead of time means you’ll avoid embarrassing moments with colleagues, potential clients, or those who you meet along your stay – allowing you to focus on your big wins and enjoyment of your experiences.

 

Happy Travel

 

Becoming Culturally-Fluent Before Your Business Trip

For many of us, there comes the point where you need to travel internationally to conduct business. Whether your travels will be for research, sales meetings, conferences, or to check in on partners and suppliers – you should jump to take advantage of the opportunity. International travel can teach us a lot about ourselves, and the planning ahead for the travel is often a fantastic exercise in learning and creative thinking.

Here are a few tips to consider when planning for (and during) your visit.

 

  1. Be flexible and respectful. Consider your hosts’ needs and expectations, and be as open minded as possible. Be careful not to make a constant comparison with your home country. For example, if you are in Italy and order a coffee, be flexible with the cup size that is returned to you (if it’s not enough after drinking it, you may ask for a second cup).
  2. Do not take things personally. Some things people do may be frustrating to you, but try to put yourself in their shoes. An example of this is when you speak with someone, and she does not look back at you, remember that in some cultures this is not a sign of disrespect – it’s their cultural norm.
  3. Be patient. Some country’s foods and customs may be new to you, but “new” doesn’t mean it’s being done “wrong.” Try to eat a portion of the meal that you’ve never tried before, just for the experience. Try not to talk about business while you’re at the dining table; save it for another conversation.
  4. Strive to learn language basics as a sign of respect. If English is not predominantly spoken where you’re headed, try to learn a handful of basics as a sign of respect. “Good morning” and “Good evening,” “Hello,” “How are you,” “Thank you,” “Yes,” “No” and “Please” are most important.
  5. Be a good listener. Your host or colleague will hopefully explain the way things are done early in your visit. Listen closely and openly, and be sure to ask lots of thoughtful questions!
  6. Know that your perceptions are relative, not absolute. You should try to avoid stereotyping and remember that the way you view an experience is always colored by your own upbringing and culture. Try to eat new foods when they are offered to you. Try to go to the restroom when there is one (in case it won’t be convenient again for some time). Finally, be sure to keep your smartphone use to a minimum as much as possible, enjoying the moments and being present in the fascinating space that you’re in!