In today’s modern era, it is very easy to forget a lot of the common things we did in the past, like how to be courteous on the phone. Our lives seems to be fun by our smart phones-texts, social media, calendars and appointments, games, apps, to do lists, are all housed on these handy devices.
But here is the thing, our children do not even use their phones for having telephone conversation. No one remembers anyone’s telephone number any longer.
Smartphones are training all of us to use alternative forms of communication, to the point where a ringing phone is a cause for concern. 140 character tweets, emails, text messages, SnapChats, WhatsApp, and so on. And while those over the age of thirty are in fact ‘training’ in this brave new world, the twenty-somethings and younger have been brought on up on these tools of communication; the art of talking on the telephone, not unlike the art of letter writing, has gone the way of the dodo bird. Yet, we are finding that when it comes to communicating clearly and succinctly, avoiding miscommunication and building relationships, there is very much still a place and need for the phone call. So brushing up on our phone etiquette and skills is not such a bad idea.
Joel Schwartz, founder of Parlor.me, offers some great tips about phone etiquette. With an emphasis on electronic communication over the last few years, we are now learning that often a phone conversation is more meaningful and more effective at communicating our thoughts and ideas. As we learn to balance texting with voice communication, many of us have forgotten the do’s and don’ts of a phone conversation.
- When answering a call, be sure to speak clearly and enunciate: you don’t know how well the person on the other end hears and it’s nothing less than frustrating to have to ask the person who answered to repeat themselves. Twice.
- The same rule goes if you are calling someone: be clear in stating who you are and whom you wish to speak with. How can you be clear? Pronounce your words clearly and don’t speak too quickly. This will allow the person on the other end to understand you easily.
- Watch your volume: gone are the days when one had to speak loudly on the telephone, particularly for long distance calls, in order to be heard. In fact, a higher volume can make it harder for the caller to understand you.
- One person at a time: if you’re talking on the telephone, give that person your full attention and don’t respond to a person standing in front of you. The person on the phone can’t see you and won’t know whom you are addressing. If you MUST address the person in front of you, ask your caller if you can place them on hold or if you can call them back. Parents are particularly prone to ignoring a caller in favor of a child who has arrived to interrupt, without saying a word to the person on the other end of the line. Don’t do that: it’s rude!
- Having your child answer the phone: Since Grandma is probably the only person who enjoys having her calls answered by three year old Johnny, it’s best to put rules in place early about answering a ringing phone: when to do it, when not to and what to say if they do.
- Sharing your conversation: Speakerphones have their place. An office conference room for a teleconference call, for example. In the middle of a busy restaurant? Not so much. Beyond that, the sound quality is often a lot less with a speakerphone and your caller may not be able to hear you very well. TIP? If you’re using a smartphone and want to be hands free while you talk, use a headphone with a mic on it. The sound will be much clearer for both of you!
- Hands free doesn’t necessarily mean you should have busy hands: One of the worst things while on the phone with someone is listening to them doing something while they are talking to you. It gives the impression that the importance of the call is secondary and not worth their full attention. Typing, moving papers around, watching television, making lunch. Worse yet, eating lunch: listening to people chew over the phone is unpleasant at best, disgusting at worst. And … dare I mention one last ‘don’t do while you’re on the phone’? No going to the bathroom. If that has never happened to you, you’re lucky. Trust us on this.
- Leave a message even if it’s just to say ‘hi’: Even if all you did was call someone to say hello, leave a message saying as much. It’s annoying for the person to come, see your number on call display but no message: they’re left wondering if they should call back or if something important has happened. This can be tricky however: millennials would rather you hung up and sent a text. A Gen-Y would prefer you left a message. Consider whom you are calling when you decide what to do about messages.
- For the business caller: if you’re on a conference call, and you need to step away or speak with someone else, make sure to mute yourself so that your background noise doesn’t interrupt the call for everyone else. While it’s hard sometimes do know when to go ahead and speak during a group call, be sure to let others finish a complete thought before jumping in, or you could drown out the rest of their statement.
- Don’t interrupt: Allow the person speaking to finish her or her thought or idea prior to jumping in with your point of view. A phone conversation is all about give and take. One person should not dominate the conversation unless you’re on a business call and someone is giving a verbal presentation. Allow room for discussion and exchange of ideas.
Some of these tips might seem obvious but the key to etiquette is to remember that perception is reality: if someone perceives that you are being rude, you are being rude, whether you think you are or not. If you’re not sure how to behave, simply imagine the roles reversed. Would you want someone snapping gum in your ear while you were on the line? We think not:)