Real Phone Etiquette

It’s Wednesday night. After working another grueling hump day, all you want to do is go home, change clothes, sit in your favorite chair, and watch some mind-numbing TV. You’re getting comfortable and finally found something worth watching when the phone’s ringing interrupts your groove. You take a glance at the caller ID to make sure it’s not bill collectors or telemarketers. Then you notice that it’s Sally. You wouldn’t mind talking to Sally if she wasn’t such a motormouth. You know that if you answer the phone she will easily steal two hours from your much needed lounging which makes you angry every time. You decide not to answer the phone so that you can remain calm and peaceful, but the damage is done because you replay in your mind previous times that Sally has ruined your evening.

This scenario happens every single day, but no one is brave enough to call out annoying callers… that is, until today. If you suspect that you may be an annoying caller, please continue reading. This article is especially for you.

When I think of annoying behaviors that get to me on the phone, three behaviors immediately come to mind: The long-winded caller, the eating caller, and the abrupt caller. The worse for me will always be the long-winded caller. People, we live in a world where jobs need to be worked, kids need to be fed, mates need to be consoled, miscellaneous items need to be purchased, food needs to be cooked and eaten, and vehicles need to be driven, so we don’t have time to waste talking to a long-winded caller.

I have one friend who I do not allow to call me on the phone because she is too long-winded. I have had three hour long conversations with her on the phone. You might be thinking, “Well Flo, surely she was confiding in you about some problem that she has. Those conversations can take a long time.” Wrong! She was talking about nothing. Nothing at all! I can’t even remember what she was talking about the last time we spoke. I think at one point she was saying something about a fish tank. Fish tank conversation equals nothing. I do not like sacrificing my evening for fish tank talk. In addition, she repeats herself over and over again. And she didn’t even stop talking long enough for me to say that I needed to go, ignoring that I was only saying , “Uh-huh. Uh-huh.” She literally ran out of words to use and that was how the call ended (and I think my prayers to get me off of the phone helped too).

If you find that you have this problem, instead of annoying the crap out of your friends, just send a text message. For some reason, long-winded people know how to state only the essential facts in a text message. With this friend, she will send me about three texts at a time and then she’s done, and I am very pleased with that.

You’d think that it would be common knowledge not to eat and talk on the phone, but it evidently is not. I have spoken to people on the phone in both a professional and personal capacity, and both kinds of people eat on the phone. You know how everyone hates to hear people smacking? Many folks don’t get that the smacking sound is magnified over the phone as it goes directly into my ear. But wait, it gets worse. While eating, many people then do the inevitable – they belch. That is also magnified into my ear. Friends and family are probably the worse perpetrators because they are too close to us so their inhibitions are down, but it is not okay from them either.

The solution to this problem is simple. If you need to call someone while you are eating, either wait until you are done or stop eating before you call. Then there is no more smacking and no more belching. Likewise, if someone calls while you are eating, either let the phone ring and call them back when you are finished, answer the phone to tell them you are eating and you’ll call them right back when you are finished, or stop eating and then answer the phone.

Abrupt callers are people who want to get in and get out, and they don’t care how they do it. Here is an example:


“Hey, Flo. What is Ginger’s phone number?”

“Sorry, but I don’t have it.”

“OK. Bye.”

It sounds pretty harmless, but the caller could’ve taken time to go through the standard formalities of asking, ‘How are you?’ and thanking me when I said I didn’t ┬áhave Ginger’s phone number. Also, these callers don’t wait until you say goodbye back. Once they say their goodbye they feel free to hang up. Sometimes it leaves me feeling like, ‘I’m not a bill collector for goodness’ sakes.’ Believe me, I want to get off of the phone as quickly as the next person, but there is a more proper way to do it (unless you’re speaking to a long-winded caller).

While these are the three main annoying callers, an honorable mention is the greeting one uses when they answer my call. Some say, ‘Yellow.’ Others say, ‘What’s up?’ My home girls say, ‘Hey girl,’ but that one is fine with me. If you are not speaking with a close friend, just say ‘Hello.’ If you want to be extra creative you can even use their name after saying hello so that they know that you know who they are and they don’t waste time announcing themselves. Many of these other greetings, especially ‘Yellow’ are really annoying.

Another honorable mention is carrying on a conversation with me and someone else in the background. My mother is notorious for this, and she knows that she isn’t listening to what I’m saying, especially when my brother is over her house. When she starts talking to someone in the background I just end the call because I know I’ll end up having to repeat everything to her later.

So these are the phone problems facing today’s callers. Have social networking, text messages, IMs, and emails deteriorated the art of phone conversation? I don’t know because the people I am referring to don’t really use any of these things. Nevertheless, if you notice that people are answering the phone less and less when you call, the problem may be you. Please take the above tips to heart. Life is too short to needlessly waste time being frustrated by bad phone manners, and that is today’s tip from Flo.