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Telephone etiquette

July 23, 2008

CyberText Newsletter subscriber Steve gets hot under the collar about telephone etiquette—or lack of it. Here’s some of what he had to say:

I make it a point to ignore or divert telephone calls when someone comes to talk with me. It shows politeness, interest and respect as the person has made the physical effort to come and see you. I also expect the same as I take the view that “I was there first” and have likewise made the effort. Why then do people feel the need to break a conversation to answer a phone (mobile or fixed) given most phones have message-taking functions? In my view, if the call is important, the caller will either phone back, leave a message, or send an email.

I also have the same peeve when phoning an organisation with a reception/switchboard and without allowing you to speak, either ask you to hold, or tell you they have another call waiting. If asked by one of these operators if I would mind holding I always answer “Yes”. Unfortunately some take that answer as my being in agreement to hold, and if I say “No”, take this as my not minding. So I can’t get through anyway. … I don’t believe most people understand how offensive some of this “I have another call, and would you mind waiting” behaviour can be.

My response: The plethora of TV shows that show the boss answering the phone in the middle of a conversation doesn’t help. One example is Law & Order where the Lieutenant often answers the phone when her detectives are present.)

Another one from Ed…

A guy I used to work with went to see his bank manager about a loan. Each time my friend began to explain the purpose of his visit the phone ran and the manager would answer it. This happened three times. The third time my friend got up to walk out, the manager cupped his hand over the phone and said. “Where are you going?”

My friend replied “I’m going to ring you up”.

The bank manager hung up the phone, directed his secretary to hold all calls, as he should have done in the first place and got on with the meeting.

This happened over 30 years ago, so bad manners are not new…

[This article was first published in the September 2004 and December 2004 CyberText newsletters]

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