Typically, I’m not someone who thinks a lot about etiquette. For instance, you’ll never find me reading a copy of Emily Post’s famous book. While I believe it is important to be polite and kind, I personally don’t care whether I’m using, say, the right fork when I’m having a fancy dinner. At the same time, there are circumstances in which etiquette is crucial and can mean the difference between a dating relationship lasting or getting cut short due to bad behavior. Specifically, let’s take a moment and consider what appropriate etiquette is with your phone when you’re on a date. We can jump to the punchline, too, to spare you any mystery. In short, put that damn phone away!
Don’t get your phone out unless you’re getting information you need right away. If you need directions, want to call the restaurant, or need to check movie times, it’s okay to use your phone for a moment. The point is to use it only when you absolutely need it.
Even when you do need to check your phone, ask for permission. I promise you this: If you ask your new date whether it’s okay for you to check your phone, he or she will seriously appreciate it. Your date will actually be pleasantly surprised that you ask for permission, and anyone you date will feel good that you thought about their feelings to ask in the first place.
Wear a watch early in dating. These days, if you’re like a lot of people, you use your phone as a watch. I regularly check my phone not to see who called or texted, but to see what time it is. On a date, however, checking your phone makes people nervous. They understandably wonder if you are checking the time because you are looking for an excuse to leave, or they may wonder if you are looking to see if you got a text from someone else you might be meeting up with later. Be polite and make the date about the two of you in the beginning. Don’t do anything that would make the other person nervous or question anything.
Turn your phone off for the entirety of the date. The best thing to do is to turn your phone off to avoid the temptation of pulling it out of your pocket or purse as a reflex. If you don’t want to turn it off, put your phone on silent and make sure that the “vibrate” function is off. (If a call or text comes in, you are inevitably going to want to check it.) In the beginning of dating, you have to go out of your way to be polite and to think of the other person’s feelings, and nothing is a turn-off quite like the person opposite you compulsively playing with their phone.
Follow proper phone etiquette in dating even if you decide you will never see this person again. If you realize that the person you’re out with is not someone you want to be with in the future, you may be tempted to pass the time by checking your phone or sending a quick text. Bottom line: That behavior is narcissistic and rude. Fine, you may not like that individual, but you don’t need to smear it in their face by showing them that your phone is more interesting than they are. Be nice to others, and others will return the favor to you.
Address the issue with your date if they don’t follow proper etiquette while on a date with you. Once you have an established rapport with someone – you’ve been with them a month or so – it is okay to pull your phone out from time to time. But in the beginning, no one should be playing with their phone. If you’re on a date with someone who keeps pulling their phone out and looking at it, it should bother you. It means that he or she isn’t really connecting with you, and there is no point in being on a date if your goal isn’t to establish a connection. If someone keeps checking their phone, say sweetly with a smile, “Would it be okay if I ask if we put our phones away while we are still getting to know each other?” By asking the question this way, you aren’t coming across as attacking or judgmental. Again, you are asking for permission, and this is a great way to assert yourself without being angry or rude.
Keep your phone out of the equation as much as possible early in dating. If you need to use it, ask for permission. If your date starts annoying you by pulling their phone out too much, say something so that you don’t get even more annoyed. Finally, keep in mind that each one of us has probably become too reliant on the endless electronic devices we use, so any break you take is good for your brain and even better for your emotional life overall.
About the Author:
Dr. Seth is a licensed clinical psychologist, author, Psychology Today blogger, and TV guest expert. He practices in Los Angeles and treats a wide range of issues and disorders and specializes in relationships, parenting, and addiction. He has had extensive training in conducting couples therapy and is the author of Dr. Seth’s Love Prescription: Overcome Relationship Repetition Syndrome and Find the Love You Deserve