DR. E. CAROL WEBSTER’S
ARE YOU A CELL PHONE CAD?
E. Carol Webster, Ph.D.
Original Copyright © 2004
Feel the need to bore everyone on the elevator with your cell phone conversation? Answer calls in meetings? Unable to unplug long enough to make it through the supermarket or a meal with friends? It’s time to take a critical look at your behavior. You may be a cell phone cad.
Cell phones are great technology. They allow people who were previously chained to their offices or homes to move about freely while still being able to take care of critical tasks or responsibilities. But the operative word is critical. The vast majority of the calls placed and taken on cell phones could probably be saved for more private circumstances – but more and more people are changing the definition of “urgent” personal or professional business and are discussing all manner of topics in full voice for all to hear. Usual standards of social grace and etiquette have gone by the wayside in many instances to the point where few think twice about interrupting an intimate dinner engagement or may even stop a business presentation to answer a cell phone! Libraries and theaters are not spared, nor are confined spaces like an airplane or commuter train where there is no escape from the chatter. Though fortunately still rare, reports of people taking calls during wakes and funerals are on the rise. And, yes, even therapy sessions and other types of doctors’ appointments are interrupted and require a talking-to about the inappropriate intrusion of “non-emergency” cell phone calls.
So what’s going on? What’s the meaning of this behavior? Much of it is just poor etiquette – plain and simple. Poor “home training” as many folks call it. But, sometimes this behavior reflects emotional needs that are getting in the way. Make sure that you’re not one of the following:
The Show Off
People who take non-emergency calls during meetings or bark orders while boarding planes clearly have a need for you to believe that they are very important. They probably aren’t since they would otherwise have an assistant or someone else handling this business for them, but their ego is pumped by having others hear them giving directives or instructions. Even when enjoying personal time with friends and family, these individuals make and take calls – causing those with them to correctly feel that their time isn’t very important and that they don’t matter very much by comparison. To get over this behavior, the Show Off needs to find other ways to gain feelings of importance. Until then, their boorish behavior can be decreased by insisting that they at least keep the phone in silent mode and focus on you and the business at hand until your time with them is over.
Similar to the Show Off, MicroManagers have a strong need to be in control and feel more important and worthy when directing things. They find it hard to delegate responsibility to others. Thus, they can’t get through a simple meal or pick up their dry cleaning without taking every call so that they can tell people what to do. Often, they are perfectionist people who struggle with an underlying fear of making a mistake and, thus, find it virtually impossible to trust others to know what to do in their absence. It doesn’t matter whether they have the most highly educated and trained staff in the world or are dealing with entry-level workers, these individuals have that “know-it-all” tendency that makes it tough for them to let others take over. As a result, people who work for them give up trying and eventually do need to check with them about everything. Thus, their phone is always ringing. Even when it isn’t – they make the calls! They just can’t let go. MicroManagers should be reminded that their image is enhanced when people can function without them and that things must be in pretty bad shape if they can’t take time to enjoy an hour’s lunch without talking to staff back at the office.
Those least rattled by MicroManagers are Dependents – who can’t make a move without checking with someone else. Dependents are highly insecure and, while also being fearful of making a mistake or failing, often simply don’t know what to do. Therefore, they spend all of their time getting direction and then double-checking that they have done things correctly. Most of the time they have a full network of capable supporters and mentors to help them, but must touch base with them all before taking any action. Not only does this involve business matters, but personal issues too. Thus, they are constantly tied to the phone like a lifeline and feel adrift and unable to function properly when that input is missing. These are the individuals who are most likely to talk through an entire trip to the supermarket or subject people to their whole life story as they wait in line at the movies. Oblivious to the fact that others don’t want to hear all that, Dependents keep gabbing away in spite of the strong glares they get wherever they go. Only therapy is likely to change this well-entrenched, needy behavior but Dependents do follow rules, so clear instructions to “turn cell phones off” or “please step outside the room if you must take a call” may help.
There are some individuals who have so much “drama” going on their lives that call after call rolls in with problems. It may be friends, other family members, business associates – all with issues. Avoiders jump right into these problems, embrace them as their own, and take pride in being in the thick of things. This keeps them from taking care of more important obligations and often their own work performance or personal life suffers as a result. In therapy, Avoiders often realize that they don’t feel as capable of handling their responsibilities as they should and, thus, throw themselves into everything else under the sun instead. They feel good putting out little fires and the people around them give lots of praise for their trouble. They sometimes get a grip when asked to look at what’s going undone back at the office or at home while they babble away on the phone, but usually need help getting unstuck from all the hubbub.
Boors feel that rules of etiquette don’t apply to them and could care less if this offends people. They are most likely to be the ones taking calls at the theater or during someone’s funeral because it’s about what they want and not about concern for others. Often they have to be asked to leave because they simply will not show consideration for those around them. Sending them to charm school won’t help. Only a good dose of ostracism and some serious therapy will do the trick.
Remember that your cell phone should enhance your life and not cause you to have less balance and quality of life than you had before you started using one. Also, remember that you are engaging in private conversation – which is why phone booths used to have doors – so at least lower your voice, turn away from others, or better yet clearly walk a distance away so that your discussion is not intruding upon anyone else. Most importantly – it’s okay to be “off duty” for periods of time throughout your day. Satisfy your needs for attention and importance in other ways or get help so that you can turn your cell phone off or put it in silent mode when it’s not a matter of life or death to take calls. Even those who provide emergency services can let things wait at times. If they can endure it – so can you!
About the Author:
Dr. E. Carol Webster is a clinical psychologist consultant in Fort Lauderdale, FL.
She is author of the book for those dealing with the stress of success ―
Success Management: How to Get to the Top and Keep Your Sanity Once You Get There,
The Fear of Success: Stop It From Stopping You! ―
the book to help you overcome fears that may be holding you back in your life and career
The Private Practice of Clinical Psychology in: Voices of Historical & Contemporary Black American Pioneers
To contact Dr. Webster visit online at http://drcarolwebster.com or call 954.797.9766.
E. Carol Webster, Ph.D.
Clinical Psychology Consulting
Mailing Address: 7027 West Broward Boulevard, #262 Fort Lauderdale, FL 33317
Reprint Policy: You are welcome to reprint this article for your personal use and to share with friends and associates.
Contact Dr. Webster to obtain permission for any commercial purposes.