How Badly Are You Screwing Up? Test Your Cell Phone Etiquette.

The question isn’t “Are you misbehaving?” – A more likely question is “How BADLY are you misbehaving with that cell phone of yours?” How often does it happen that something you do with that device ends up HURTING you? Is it possible that you’ve accidentally turned someone OFF and blew your chance at romance, friendship or a new business connection because of a communication device screw up? Let’s see…

How are YOU misbehaving with that cell phone?

He texted her to ask her out on a first date. Oops… she thinks a “text invitation” is lame and rude, so she didn’t respond, end of story, love loses.


The more serious a man is about having a real relationship, the more sincere and direct his invitation should be for that all important first date. Men of all ages are wise to CALL vs. text for that first date invitation. The second date too, if he’s really looking to make a good, solid impression.


“It’s been said that guys fall in love through their eyes, and we girls fall in love through our ears. We want and need to hear his voice…and we want to know that we’re worth that small but meaningful effort on his part.”


She didn’t respond to his text – Uh oh… HER screw up too…


She could have saved them both by texting back “Good to hear from you. Love to chat. Call when you can.”


PZ: Help us out here, ladies – we guys have a HECK of a time trying to figure out how to please the women in our lives. You can save us by letting us know how you like things, and what makes you happy. If you’re the girl who hates texting, let him know what you like better. If I text you and you don’t like texting, don’t yell at me, put me in the doghouse or ignore me, just text back “Call me when you’re free, love to hear your voice” and that’s just what I’ll do.

His voicemail isn’t set up yet. Her voice recording isn’t set up yet.
Annoying, a common occurrence, and totally pathetic, wouldn’t you say?


OK, so right now, call yourself. Call ALL of your phone numbers. Is your voice mailbox set up so folks can leave a message? Does a robot recording kick in that says, “You’ve reached 805-371-9557” And that’s it? And callers can’t tell that it’s even YOUR phone? What if they misdialed? They won’t leave a message. If so, you’ll miss calls and lots of them. Folks will often just hang up, and you both lose out.


Make sure each of your phone numbers has a voice mail recording set up, in YOUR voice, not the generic robot voice. Short and sweet, “Hi, it’s Julie, sorry I can’t take your call at the moment, please leave a message and I’ll call you back.” Check your voice recording – do you sound cold, aloof, or annoyed? I sure hope not.

She didn’t CHECK her phone messages.

Tragic. Tracy and Rob had set a second date for Friday eve at 6:30. He texted her at lunchtime that day to confirm, and he left a voice mail message, “See you at 6:30 at The Grill” But….Tracy didn’t check her messages until she was nearly at the restaurant. Since he’d not heard back from her by 5:30 or so, he figured she was flaking and so he didn’t bother to shower, dress and make the drive to the restaurant. UGH. She was pissed, he was pissed. End of relationship. And Cupid cries….

Check your text messages, check your voice mail messages, especially if you have plans that day.


Do you return your calls and texts? Do you? Always, or… just… sometimes?

Remember the Golden Rule, the one that reminds us to treat others the way we like to be treated? How is it for YOU when you’re waiting to hear back from someone who matters to you and that return call or text never comes, or comes days later? It feels not so warm and fuzzy, huh? Do YOUR part by making a sincere effort to check your messages and to always return calls and texts – it’s good Karma…


Do you look down at “that thing” all the time?

I sent Stephanie out on a flirting expedition on Sunday afternoon at a wine bar, to practice her flirting skills. Her mission? To smile and hold eye contact with each of the interesting looking men she could spot in her ‘hood. She came home discouraged, feeling defeated by her competition – she said that the guys’ eyes were ALL locked on their stupid cell phones and she couldn’t catch the attention of even ONE man.


Guys complain about this too – they want to talk to that cute girl at the coffee shop, or who’s at the counter at the deli, but she’s not “accessible” and she’s not “approachable” because her eyes are locked on his competition – which is her silly phone.

PZ: We all use our phones as a crutch – it’s easier to look down at that thing than it is to engage with real live people. Let’s be honest – most of the things we’re doing on our devices aren’t important, and certainly aren’t urgent, so if you really WOULD like to have a real, live relationship with a real live human, leave the crutch in the car, in your pocket or purse, and start engaging with the real, live people who are all around you, all day long.

It buzzes, it beeps, it’s out of control…

Cathy was super excited to meet Brad. He’d chosen the perfect outside table at her favorite little café. He’s the most intriguing man she’s had a date with in years and she really liked him. But… she won’t get to see him again. Want to know why? She had her iPhone on the table all night long and every time it buzzed she couldn’t resist; she had to check it. It buzzed… a lot… The impression Brad took away? She’s not really interested in him. That email box of hers is more important than developing a meaningful relationship with a really good man.

PZ: Get familiar with your phone. Learn how to turn OFF the audible notifications. ALL of the important people in your world will thank you for this.

More Tips for how to keep that “communication device” from stalling out your love life:

Turn it OFF. When you are on a date or in a meeting — anytime YOUR attention is important to the person you’re with, turn your phone off, or put it on silent mode. Got work challenges or family members who need to be in touch? Before you go into the date / meeting, check in with the most pesky of your regular interrupters to make sure they’re OK and to say that you’ll be out of touch for an hour or so.

Create healthy boundaries with all of the important people in your life. The vast majority of those oh-so-tantalizing calls, texts and emails (and surely the social media notifications we receive) are in no way urgent. Give those who are with you NOW, at THIS moment the gift of your presence. Get back to those other folks in an hour. It can usually wait.

Learn how to use the silly thing. Ask a teenager to show you how to set up voice mail, get your messages, how to copy/paste, how to save an incoming call as a new contact, all those handy tools. You can even read the manual (imagine that!) or pop online to find the shortcuts and how-to tips. If we’re going to have these “magical” devices, it’s our responsibility to learn how to use them.

Short and Sweet. Texting is best for quick updates, especially for time sensitive communications (“traffic is lousy, I’ll be there in 10”) but not for sharing long, heartfelt diatribes. Save those sensitive conversations for phone calls and in-person meet-ups. More than a sentence? More than a few lines? Save it….

Be patient. LOTS of folks out there are not glued to their devices. There are still some people out there in your world and mine who are not addicted to the 24/7 stream of stuff that hits that little screen. Don’t interpret a lack of instantaneous response as bad news or insensitivity or rudeness – and don’t keep texting… Don’t keep calling. When you’re anxious to hear back from someone, don’t fret over it – get busy — Hit the hiking trail or find a yoga class, read a whole book if you have to, but please, chill out and give people in your world a chance to come to you in their own time, at their own pace.

Cut some slack, folks. Each of us has our favorite way to receive and to send communication with the people in our lives. Let’s all practice being flexible and understanding. Get good at letting other people know what works well for YOU – texting, voice mail, late night calls, a quick email update – how do YOU like your communication? Let people know what you like and love, and do your best to accommodate the preferences of the other people in your life. Your way is not the only way. Neither is his, neither is hers.

The opportunity for partnership begins the moment we first connect, and we can and should be training each other to give it the way we like to get it. Speak up, with compassion and kindness. Keep your humor, as screw ups happen – we can count on them – but these screw ups don’t need to derail our relationships.

PZ: Let’s not let our machinery override our humanity.

About the Author

Julie Ferman

Julie is familiar to viewers of Good Morning America, The Today Show and Dr. Phil, where she frequently appears to provide dating advice drawn from her more than 30 years of experience as a top matchmaker and relationship coach. Named “Best matchmaker” by iDate in 2015, Julie is also an accomplished professional speaker and media consultant.

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