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Phone Etiquette ~ a P.S.A. April 10, 2011

Posted by nrhatch in Humor, Less IS More, People, Word Play.

There are two types of people.

No, not alive or dead ~ that’s for snakes.  For people, the breakdown is between those who enjoy chatting on the phone and those who don’t.

Those who enjoy chatting on the phone snatch the receiver when it rings, not caring who is at the other end of the line.  It is someone to talk to about something . . . or other.

Those who don’t enjoy chatting on the phone screen their calls, using Caller I.D. for preferred callers and the answering machine for everyone else.

In our home, preferred caller status is limited to family and friends we talk to on a regular basis ~ in short, people who already know we don’t like chatting on the phone just to kill time.

If a preferred caller is calling, I know they must have a question or concern that absolutely positively requires my immediate input . . . even if I’m dripping wet from the shower.

For everyone else, including salesmen, fundraisers, people who need favors, and I.R.S. auditors, there’s the answering machine . . . Please Leave A Message At The B*E*E*P!

Now that we’re clear on that, let’s move on to the P.S.A. ~ the phone screening announcement:

#1 ~ Rather self evident, but let’s spell it out anyway.  If you have time to kill and want to spend it chatting on the phone, please do NOT call me.

#2 ~ Do not put my number on speed dial where you might accidentally butt dial it and interrupt my meditation, musing, writing, or lint-picking time.

#3 ~ If you call and get the answering machine, please don’t assume that I am “out and about” and will call you back on my return if all you say is, “Hey, this is Ronald McDonald.  Give me a call.”

I am NOT out and about.  I’m sitting right there listening to you.  Leave a message.  I am not picking up because you are not on my preferred caller list.  Leave a message.  Your name on Caller I.D. is NOT enough, standing alone, to make me pick up the receiver.  Leave a message.

In short, I want to know WHY you are calling so I can decide whether we have anything to talk about:

* If you are calling on Sunday morning to invite me to church, the answer is NO.  And it’s not because I will spontaneously combust if I step into a church.  It’s because I am happier as a heathen.

* If you are calling mid-week because you want me to go shopping with you, the answer is NO.  If you don’t know what to buy without my input, you probably don’t need it anyway.

* If you are calling to tell me I won the lottery, or dinner for two, or a car, or free Blockbuster movies, please leave a message.  I may want to talk to you, but I want to know that you are “for real.”

* If you are calling “just to chat” . . . please see #1 (above).

In my experience, when someone who is not on my preferred caller list calls and merely identifies themselves by name and number, it’s because they want something from me.

And they instinctively know it’s not something that I want to do.

If they were calling to invite me to Happy Hour, or to go sailing,  parasailing, kayaking, or biking, they would say so.

When they don’t say WHY they are calling, I know they are calling to dump an onerous burden on my shoulders and they want to catch me “off guard.”

Instead of leaving a detailed message asking me to join their half-baked fundraising idea on behalf of 2-toed sloths with cognitive issues, they just leave their name and number . . . and expect me to call back unawares.

They don’t want to tip their hand or give me time to think up a socially acceptable excuse.  They want to put me “on the spot” and spring it on me in a way that increases the likelihood that I will say “yes” even if I desperately want to say “no.”

That strategy may work with some of the people some of the time, but it no longer works with me.  When I call back (assuming I call back), I give them the old, “Hmm . . . let me think about it and get back with you.”

If they insist on an immediate answer, or get all push-y and shove-y, acting as if they should get a vote in how I spend my free time, I just say “no.”

Without guilt.  Without remorse.  Without sputtering.

After all, if they can’t bother to follow these simple guidelines for phone etiquette, why should I care what they think?

Quote:  Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.  ~ Dr. Seuss

No rules.  Just write!

What about you?  Do you enjoy chatting on the phone, or would you prefer to keep conversations to the bare minimum.

If someone you barely know calls and leaves only name and number, does it annoy you that they didn’t say WHY they were calling?  


1. carldagostino - April 10, 2011

Unplug phone during nap time. I DON’T OWN a cell phone. Everyone else knows call between 5-8 PM. There is no such thing as an emergency. I already voted absentee ballot and will continue to vote for President Roosevelt so don’t waste your time. No, the only thing I buy is groceries.

nrhatch - April 10, 2011

I do own a cell phone . . . but I don’t give out the number very often. 😀

When my family calls, I usually pick up right away, unless it is a very BAD time. Sometimes they just have a quick question. And sometimes we really need to connect because it’s been awhile.

But when neighbors (or strangers) call, I want to know WHY before I pick up the phone.

2. Paula Tohline Calhoun - April 10, 2011

I will ON OCCASION chat with a close friend or two (actually, there are exactly three women who I will call for a catch-up conversation on occasion). Other than that, I have a hard time conversing over the phone. Don’t know why – it’s just not my cup of tea.

I had to really work with myself for years in order to be able to call people on the phone who I did not know, or to whom I had to introduce myself – I really hate that! I have no problem conversing in person, but something about the phone – land-line or cell – I just don’t like to spend a lot of time on it.

Oh well. . .at least I’ve learned a valuable lesson from you: Don’t call Nancy – just send her an e-mail. She’ll get back to me when she can. 😀

nrhatch - April 10, 2011

I have no real problem talking on the phone, or cold calling someone . . . as long as there is a REASON for the call.

But just to chat, it’s just not my cup of tea . . . unless I’m drinking something stronger than tea, when chatting about nothing can be quite fun.

If you just want to let me know something that does not require an immediate response, e-mail is definitely the best way to reach me. 😀

3. Lisa - April 10, 2011

I like chatting with a few people, but usually I screen. And my theory is, if they don’t leave a message they don’t need a call back. Or, if it is really important, they will leave a message. That theory works most of the time. 😉

nrhatch - April 10, 2011

Thanks, Lisa. I know that if I’m calling someone about something, and get their machine, I always give them a brief “heads up” about why I’m calling.

That way, they can decide when to call me back ~ knowing whether it will require 15 seconds of their time, or 30 minutes.

4. Chad - April 10, 2011

I am sort of the inverse. There are some people I screen, but if it’s someone I don’t have a problem with, it’s good to talk, or reconnect if it’s been a while. On the other hand, if it’s a number I don’t recognize I will usually try to answer; my reasoning is that anyone taking their valuable time to call a nobody like me might say something important or interesting. Of course, it doesn’t always pan out that way, but I’d rather hang up on something irrelevant than miss a call that may have mattered. Sometimes, opportunity knocks once and doesn’t feel like leaving a message.

So, for me, screening is the exception, not the rule. I miss many calls since I sleep during the day, but that’s another story…

P.S. cell phone only for me.

nrhatch - April 10, 2011

So, you make yourself available to telemarketers? And salesmen? And fundraisers?

Of course, they probably call while you’re sleeping. Not too many people fundraising in the middle of the night. 😉

Chad - April 11, 2011

I do not receive many calls from marketers or fundraisers. They don’t call day or night. I have taken ‘mystery’ calls which turned out to be quite rewarding. My policy on life is ‘open for business,’ not ‘no trespassing.’

I wonder what all of you did to deserve being harassed by salesmen. When I get them, I tell them not to call again and I hang up, it’s not a big deal and it hasn’t happened in ages.

nrhatch - April 11, 2011

Love that, Chad:

My policy on life is ‘open for business,’ not ‘no trespassing.’

5. Piglet in Portugal - April 10, 2011

I’ve spent my life on the phone through work and I can quite happily chat when someone calls me. the great thing about living in a foreign country if we do get a sales call and they hear an English voice the caller slams the phone down.
We have caller ID on our phone so it does not have to go to amc…our kids always seem to call us when we are eating our dinner, it now just goes back in the oven. I take the view there may come a time when I’m senile like my mother and they make every excuse not to ring me. For now, I am happy to chat regardless 🙂
I’d actually rather talk than write!

nrhatch - April 10, 2011

Good point. For family, I usually answer, even if I’m eating dinner. Food can be reheated.

If it’s someone I know well, and I’m not in the middle of doing something, I enjoy talking . . . at least once in a while.

But if it’s someone I don’t know well, I’d rather talk face to face, or not at all.

6. Debra - April 10, 2011

If my family does call…then I will talk with them while I wash dishes or crochet or fold clothes. 🙂 And I tell them…’if you hear noises it is me washing dishes!’ Other than my family. I rather not talk on the phone.

When I was a teenager….I talked to my BF for hours.

But not now… email..and maybe a text once in a while from my children only.

I do not have a landline because of all the robo calls,sales calls, this and that calls. I had even changed numbers. And put my number on DN call list. As you can tell….I was not a happy camper.

good post :):)

nrhatch - April 10, 2011

Thanks, Debra. As a teenager, I remember some lovely long chats with friends on the phone. But that’s not usually the type of phone call coming in these days.

For the most part, I keep in touch with “old friends” through e-mail and letters . . . with the occasional phone conversation tossed into the mix.

7. estherlou - April 10, 2011

Absolutely hilarious! I never answer the phone if it is not a number I recognize. And surprise! They don’t ever leave messages! They just keep calling back from time to time. They must enjoy listening to my machine.

nrhatch - April 10, 2011

We have some callers that call and call and call and call and NEVER leave a message ~ mostly from credit card companies and, sadly, the college and law school I attended.

I’ve now stopped contributing to the coffers of my alma maters since I find their fundraising practices leave much to be desired.

8. SuziCate - April 10, 2011

I so heart you for every single word of this! I am not a phone chatterer with the exception of a couple of my “go to people”. I only give my cell # to family and close friends…imagine my horror when the church I used to attend called me on it (and I wonder how they even got it!) and my dr.’s office calls me on it. We screen all our calls. I am almost the only one who will even answer the home phone…and yet I seldom answer it.

nrhatch - April 10, 2011

Yay! Great hearts and minds think alike. 😀

I don’t put our cell phone number on medical forms any more because I don’t want them call on that phone. I just write N/A.

9. Penny - April 10, 2011

I might add to your list-now when we go shopping anywhere-they now ask for your phone number or your email, if I want to revisit the facility in question-I will on my accord, not because you called me or send me an email- “Telemarketers”are are sweeping our world !!!! 🙂 Do not call list! that’s a joke too !!

nrhatch - April 10, 2011

Thanks, Penny. I won’t give out either just because someone asks me. If I don’t see the need for them to call or e-mail, I say, “I’ll call you.”

10. jeanne - April 10, 2011

I am not much for the phone…I always take the calls from my parents. They are getting older and I worry. Everyone else, I will call back if and when I have time. However, I would love to visit with you over lunch or a cup of coffee.

nrhatch - April 10, 2011

I always answer for my parents. And, thanks! Maybe some day we’ll have a chance to chat over coffee . . . maybe while watching critters sneak into your garden. 😉

11. Stephanie - April 10, 2011

Omg! I totally got one telemarketer so confused! I was laughing hysterically! She was trying to sell me something, I totally forget what, but I got the idea off the movie “Dude, where’s my car.” Best movie ever! She kept on ratteling and I would say, and then? She’d do her spill, and I’d say, and then? By then, I was practically on the floor laughing, my husband couldn’t figure out what was so funny! By the end of her spill, she was like, mam, there is no more and then! It was great!

nrhatch - April 10, 2011

Sounds like you had great fun . . . stringing her along only to say, “No thanks.” I’ve done that with people trying to sell me a burial plot. I let them go on and on and when they pause, I say, “I plan to be cremated.”

Telemarketers have it tough, though. It’s not the way I would want to put food on the table.

12. oldancestor - April 10, 2011

Not a big phone person here. email is my preferred mode of communication with people I’m not already going to see anyway.

Fact is, some people are lonely and bored, but I’m not. I’d love to make plans to get together, but I don’t want to take up family or writing time blabbing about nothing.

nrhatch - April 10, 2011

You’ve summed it up perfectly. I’m often alone but NEVER lonely. Or bored. I like getting together with friends, face to face, rather than sitting on the phone chatting.

oldancestor - April 11, 2011

Being lonely and bored is a choice, don’t you think?

nrhatch - April 11, 2011

Maybe. My thoughts amuse and entertain me constantly. 🙂

13. Maggie - April 10, 2011

I can’t stand talking on the phone, especially if there’s no point to the conversation. Face-to-face or email. It’s easier.

nrhatch - April 10, 2011

Thanks, Maggie. Seems like that is the general consensus. I wonder if it has anything to do with the fact that we are writers?

14. 1959duke - April 10, 2011

For me telephones are to be used for a reason not just to waist my time. I can do that on my own without anyones help.

nrhatch - April 10, 2011

Same here, Duke. The more mindfully we use our time, the more time we have to use.

15. adeeyoyo - April 10, 2011

Dr Seuss has got it right! I chat with close friends, but still only what needs to be said, the rest is left for when we meet. Anyone else gets ‘short ‘n sweet’ and persistent callers get ‘I’m really not interested! mid-sentence whereupon I just hang up.

nrhatch - April 10, 2011

Good for you, Denise.

I love Dr. Seuss, and follow his advice regularly. I annoyed someone tonight for speaking my mind over cocktails. Too bad. If you can’t speak your mind over cocktails, when can you “be yourself”? 😉

16. Booksphotographsandartwork - April 10, 2011

Oh my gosh you remind me of my husband! No wait he is much worse. He so rarely answers the phone that when he does people think I may be dead or near death. My son hates talking on the phone too and seems to have passed that on to my grandson! ugh. I don’t enjoy it as much now that we have internet and cell phones. They don’t work half the time. I have to get out of bed to answer the stupid internet phone in the hall. My friend will call and say, are you sleeping. Of course I was. Sometimes I need that too get out of bed. I don’t usually mind.

nrhatch - April 10, 2011

Glad that someone in your house is willing to answer the phone. 🙂

I don’t mind the phone ringing when I’m working. I just ignore it unless and until someone starts talking. But I hate having it ring after I’ve fallen asleep for the night ~ it startles me and makes my heart race.

17. jannatwrites - April 11, 2011

I don’t care much for the phone and have a similar preferred list (lucky people, right? ;))

I had this one “800” number that kept hanging up. After 4 weeks of getting 3 calls a day from this number, I finally picked up. A credit card company had a great deal for my husband. I told them that I was tired of them calling 3 times a day without leaving a message and they’d better not call my house again. It’s been 5 weeks since that last call!

I have another solution: I let my 8 year old answer the phone. He will talk anyone’s ear off 🙂

nrhatch - April 11, 2011

I should have had kids. 😀

I finally did that with my alma maters ~ I got tired of 10-15 calls a week, with no message being left. I e-mailed both schools and complained. They haven’t called back.

18. Cindy - April 11, 2011

I hate it, Nancy, especially people who call me when they want to kill time whilst sitting in traffic, assuming that – because I work from home – it’s okay to do so.

nrhatch - April 11, 2011

Yes! Or while waiting in line at the grocery store, when they aren’t even paying attention to the phone call because they’re also talking to the cashier. I tell them to put me on their Do Not Call list. 😉

19. You Were Born To Succeed - April 11, 2011

I like to talk on the phone with friends and family, or if an acquaintance calls for some kind of help or if I call an acquaintance for the same reason. Otherwise, I hang up on solicitors and don’t answer the phone for numbers I don’t recognize. If it’s important, they will leave a voice mail. Then I decide whether I want to call them back or not. This policy has been refined over years, as I used to talk to anyone and everyone who called. And be polite, like my mother taught me. Those days are over.

nrhatch - April 11, 2011

Thanks, Nancy. After reading Simplify Your Life years ago, I gave myself permission to answer phone calls on MY timetable rather than responding to the phone ringing like one of Pavlov’s dogs.

You Were Born To Succeed - April 11, 2011

We salivate no more!

nrhatch - April 11, 2011

Just so!

20. Tilly Bud - April 11, 2011

Where do I fit in? I don’t like chatting on the phone but I don’t like to screen. I will always answer a ringing phone.

nrhatch - April 11, 2011

You’re brave, Tilly! When our answering machine/caller I.D. feature is on the blink due to a power outage, I freeze when the phone rings.

I can’t decide whether to answer it or not. 😀

21. Sandra Bell Kirchman - April 11, 2011

I don’t have caller ID, so I always answer the phone. I sometimes get people who just want to chat, but that’s rare. I listen for a while and then tell them I have to go. Same thing with Voice Chat on IM, but I usually only get my father-in-law 🙂

If I get a telemarketer, I have too things I say. If they are asking for donations, I will tell them that we have already given to our favorite charities. If they are selliing something, I say “not interested.”

If either one of them persists, I say, “no thank you,” and hang up the phone, even if they are speaking. I have to admit I feel a little guilty about that. As with everyone else, my childhood training included being polite to people on the phone. Oh, well. I am gradually seeing it the modern way.

nrhatch - April 11, 2011

Sounds perfect, Sandra. We learned to be polite to people on the phone before businesses starting “abusing” the privilege.

Desperate times call for revised thinking. 😀

22. Patricia - April 11, 2011

I rarely talk on the phone but text quite often.

I do have to be on the phone at work a lot and my pet peeve is calling and having to go through chit chat with whoever before we can get to business. Really, are they interested in how my week has been, if I had a good week end, what the weather is like? I’m not interested in theirs, I don’t even know them.

nrhatch - April 11, 2011

I felt the same way when I needed to make calls for work ~ let’s deal with the business first and then see if there’s any time left for a chin wag. 🙂

Of course, I developed “friendships” with certain people over time. Calling them was always a bit more fun than calling someone I didn’t know at all.

23. eof737 - April 12, 2011

I like the phone… for impt conversations only.

nrhatch - April 12, 2011

Oh, the phone is great when you need an immediate answer or have an issue to resolve that requires back and forth. And it can be fun for chatting, if you’re in the mood to chat. Sometimes I am. Most times I am not.

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