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Basic Telephone Manners and Etiquette

Updated on October 25, 2014

Today we live in a society that is fast paced and self oriented. Many people, including children, have cell phones these days. For some people in the 21st century, home phones, commonly referred to as landlines, are becoming a thing of the past. Unfortunately proper etiquette and manners when it comes to the telephone is also quickly being forgotten.

Regardless of gender or age, if a person is old enough to use a telephone, whether landline or cell phone, they are old enough to practice a certain amount of courtesy and respect. Here will be discussed some basic guidelines to telephone etiquette.

Answering the Phone

When one answers the phone, one does so in a polite manner, speaking clearly and pleasantly. When someone calls your number, you want to make it clear who they have called. This will help clarify whether they have called the correct number to begin with. Some of the following phrases are acceptable etiquette when answering a phone call.

  • "Hello."
  • "Hello, this is the [insert surname] residence."
  • "Hello, [insert your name] speaking."
  • "Hello, this is [insert your name]."

It is bad etiquette to answer the phone with modern slang phrase such as, "What up, dawg" or "Speak to me". Even using the phrase, "Yo. This is [insert your name]" is still not following proper phone etiquette even if you did clarify who was speaking.

Again, make sure your tone is pleasant. Do not answer the phone with irritated tone. Even if it an inconvenient time or you are simply in a bad mood. It is ill-mannered to let this show through when answering the phone. After all, it may not have anything to do with the caller, so why make the caller suffer because your day isn't going right.

Perhaps the caller is actually calling for your roommate or another family member. There is even proper etiquette to be exercised during this scenario. Politely ask the caller to hold as you gently set down the phone. It is inappropriate to yell across the house, or location, to let the person know they have a phone call. Yelling may disturb others, not to mention sound obnoxiously loud to the caller. Instead, walk to the room the person is in and let them know they have a phone call.

Taking Messages

Perhaps the person the caller is trying to reach is busy or not at home, at that point there are a few etiquette rules to follow when taking a message. If the person is in the bathroom, for example, you do not mention that to the caller. Simply respond politely by saying, "He/She is unable to come to the phone at this time. May I please take a message so that he/she can return your call?" When taking a message for someone, be sure to include the following information:

  • Name, which includes first and last name or title and surname
  • Phone number
  • Message, which is the nature of the call
  • Date and time

Making Phone Calls

Just as there is etiquette regarding answering the phone, there is also etiquette when it comes to making the phone calls as well. One rule is to always announce yourself before requesting to speak with someone. This simply means to say something like, "Hello, this is [insert your name]. May I please speak with [insert the name of the person you are trying to reach]"

If the person who answers the phone has given his or her name upon answering the phone or you recognize the person, be polite by addressing them. For example, you could say, "Hello, [insert their name]. This is [insert your name]. May I please speak with [insert the name of the person you are trying to reach]"

If you know the phone call is going to be a long conversation, subtly give the person you called a heads up. You can do this by asking, "Is this a good time call?" or "Do you have have a few moments?" This allows the person you are calling to inform you if your call will have to brief due to other obligations.

As a General Rule...

  • Do NOT call before 9:00 a.m.
  • Do NOT call after 9:00 p.m.

When making phone calls take care in dialing the correct number. If you happen to dial a wrong number, remember to be polite. Do not just hang up. Always apologize for the inconvenience. Perhaps say something like, "My apologies, I must have dialed the wrong number. Is this 555-5555?" or "I must have the wrong number. Is this 555-5555?" Wait for a reply then say, "I apologize for any inconvenience."

Keep in mind that in today's age, most people have caller ID. Therefore, they could always call you back and be just as rude, if not more, as you were to them. In all, it is about showing the same respect to others as you wish for them to show you.

Terminating the Call

Typically the person who calls is the one who initiates ending the call. However, it is alright to end the call under certain circumstances even if you aren't the one who initiated the call. Some of these circumstances include a visitor at the door, taking care of a dependent such as a child or elderly person, a prior appointment, or if you simply busy when they call. In such cases, just politely explain the situation. Be sure to always include that you will happily give the person a return call at a later time and follow through with what you say.

As previously mentioned, most people have cell phones these days. With cell phones come dropped calls from time to time. If this should occur, it is proper etiquette to let the person who originated the call to return the call after being disconnected.

Just remember that when it comes to etiquette, courtesy is never out of style. Being polite goes a long way. This also applies to using the telephone. Although telephones aren't as personal as in person, it doesn't mean a person should forget their manners.

Professional Telephone Etiquette


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