Smartphones have become a part of our lives. Incessantly texting, emailing, calling; we sometimes lose sight of the value of person-to-person contact. July is National Cell Phone Courtesy Month, and it’s the perfect time to reflect on your mobile phone habits, so spend a little less time on the phone and a little more time in the present moment.

Here are 8 cell phone etiquette tips to keep in mind all year long:

  1. Hidden cell phone: Whether you are attending an important business meeting, out on a date or even in a casual setting with friends, keep your phone out of sight. Placing your phone on the table or desk sends the clear message that they are not your number-one priority. It’s also just rude.
  2. Silent Smartphone: It’s mannerly to turn off your cell phone before meetings, meals, and meaningful moments – like dates! If you can’t turn your device off, turn it to silent or vibrate. Your phone is not a replacement for an in-person meeting.
  3. Exceptions: There are exceptions to every rule: A) Doctors, nurses, first responders, and health providers B) Those expecting emergency calls C) Those who have an infant with a babysitter or a person with a caregiver D) Those momentarily sharing photos with others E) Those researching an important request, such as directions.
  4. Excuse Me: If accepting an emergency call, excuse yourself as quietly and calmly as possible from the gathering with an apology. For example, “I apologize, however this is urgent, please excuse me.  I hope to return in a moment.”
  5. Consider Content Carefully: With cell phones, spontaneity can be contagious. Remember, once a text, tweet or post is sent, it’s live. Sure, you can delete it, but it’s out there on the Internet, just waiting to bite you back! So use common sense and don’t post inappropriate pictures or writing while consuming adult beverages. Avoid profanity.
  6. 10-foot rule:  When making or taking a call, move 10 feet away from the building including windows. No one wants to see pacing or gesturing during your convo. Step outside when responding to a call while in a house of worship, medical office, library, theatre, or hospital.  Refrain from confidential conversations on planes, trains, and automobiles.
  7. Don’t Drive & Talk: Many localities now ban smartphone use while driving. If you must use the phone, drive to a safe area away from traffic. Safety first!
  8. The Cellular Crutch: Don’t use your phone when you are not sure what else to do in uncomfortable situations. If you walk into a new office or even a wedding reception and don’t know anyone, take time to engage with people face-to-face. Deferring back to your phone as a crutch will keep you from truly connecting with the people around you.

Start practicing these phone etiquette tips and you will develop excellent habits year-round!

Sharon Schweitzer, is a cross-cultural consultant, an international protocol expert and the founder of Protocol & Etiquette Worldwide. She is accredited in intercultural management, is the resident etiquette expert for CBS KEYE We Are Austin, a popular on-air contributor, regularly quoted by BBC Capital, Investor’s Business Daily, Fortune, and numerous other media. She is the best-selling, international award-winning author of Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide, named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2015.