Monday, August 6, 2007

Ladies Finishing School- Making and Receiving Telephone Calls

“Alexander Graham Bell’s miraculous invention of 1876 had the beauty of simplicity.” (Emily Post’s Etiquette) For better or for worse, this invention which once was simple is now rapidly evolving. With such change, comes the need for a new look at telephone manners, which sometimes seem in danger of disappearing altogether. Many telephone etiquette basics still apply, and here’s a look at rules both old and new:

Where do phone manners start? With your voice. While speaking clearing and distinctly is important, the bigger issue is volume. Speak in a tone that will allow your phonemate to hear you, but remember to keep you voice low in the presence of others. Remember, modern phoning is longer confined just to home or office!

Making Calls

The telephone seems to bring out the best or worse in people. Reinforce your friendships and social contacts by exercising your very best manners, and you can do a world of good!

Follow these steps for a successful phone call:

  • Think ahead about what you want to achieve before you place your call.
  • Adopt a pleasant tone with the person who answers the call.
  • Establish the identity of the other party.
  • Identify yourself and your reason for calling.
  • Inquire considerately whether the timing of the call is convenient.
  • Take notes during the conversation.
  • Achieve closure. Thank the other person and end the conversation.

Other considerations:

  • Keep any message brief.
  • Unless you’re absolutely certain you know a phone number, double-check before dialing. If you dial a wrong number, simply say so and apologize. Don’t demand, “What number is this?” Say, “I’m so sorry; I must have misdialed. I was trying 555-555-5555,” which will keep you from sounding annoyed at somebody who simply answered his phone. Never hang up without a word when you do reach a wrong number; few telephone affronts are more glaring.
  • As a general rule, place your calls between 9:00 AM and 9:00 PM unless you’re certain a friend or relative doesn’t mind being called earlier or later.
  • Traditional etiquette says that the person who originates the call is the one who terminates it. This rule isn’t hard and fast, but it’s helpful if a call seems to be dragging on. If you’re the one who made the call say something like, “I’ll let you go now, Erin. I’m glad I reached you, and we’ll be looking forward to seeing you soon. Good-bye.” If you’re having difficulty ending a call with a long-winded phonemate, you may have no choice but to be firm. At the first pause in conversation say, “I’m sorry, but I simply must go now.” Take this route whether you placed the call or received it, and only when really necessary.

Receiving Calls

  • If at all possible, answer your home telephone before it rings a fourth time. If you pick up after four rings, the caller may expect to be transferred to an answering machine or voice-mail system and worry that you’re in the middle of something and don’t have time to talk.
  • When you answer, make sure to identify your self and your household. When I was a girl, my sister and I were taught to answer the phone, “Hello, M. residence. Who’s calling, please?” Never give out your number if someone asks. Instead, ask what number they are trying to reach.
  • If you get a call from an unknown voice and you hear, “Hello, who is this?” you can say, “This is so-and-so. To whom would you like to speak?” Give enough information for a genuine friend to verify that he dialed the right number, but no more. If you’re not comfortable with revealing even your first name (especially if you like alone), asking who or what number the party calling is trying to reach is appropriate.
  • When you're on the receiving end of a wrong number, "I'm sorry you have the wrong number" is the correct and polite response. If the caller asks, "Who is this?" you can answer, "What number are you calling" or "Who are you calling?" If the caller wants to argue, you might say, "Please understand: There is no Lucy here," before hanging up.
  • If an incoming call is for another person in the household, respond with, "If you'll wait a moment, I'll get her." Immediately find the person and deliver the message. Don't shout! If you do have to call out for the person, cover the mouthpiece first. If the person being called isn't available, offer to take a message, and write it down. Keeping a pad and pen within reach of the phone is an act of courtesy. Be sure you get the name and number right by repeating them back to the caller. It's also helpful to note the day and time of the call.


  1. I was always taught that the caller ends the phone conversation. I still follow that rule. Occasionally, though, I do have a hard time when someone calls me and the call drags on. I'm always happy to hear from anyone, but sometimes the time reaches a point when I really need to attend to something else. In that case, I try to say something such as, "I'm so glad you called, but my family is waiting for me to put dinner on the table. Can we talk more later." But, I always feel like I'm hurting someone's feelings when I do this.

  2. I've never heard that the caller ends the call.

    One addendum, taking the note isn't enough - it should be delivered as well (yes, son, I'm talking to you!)