The problem with today’s never-ending parade of technological innovations is that in most cases, the technology has outpaced the intangibles such as manners, etiquette, and social graces. If it’s not some innocent passersby getting poked with some fool’s selfie stick, it’s an inconsiderate jerk blathering on their smart phone while in the checkout line while the cashier is trying to tell them what their total is.
Clearly, we need to update our rules of engagement when it comes to phones. When is it okay to answer a call or a text when you’re out with friends? How should one politely excuse oneself in order to take a call? Is it ever socially acceptable to grab the phone out of the hands of a non-stop talker and stuff it where the sun doesn’t shine? And should you use gloves and have a pinky extended?
This mess is further exacerbated by people’s increasing use of texting and instant messaging over talking on the phone. People are more likely to respond to texts than they are in answering a phone call. As a result, talking on the phone in a polite, professional way may be heading for extinction, right alongside writing in cursive.
So, just in case you or someone close to you are the type of person who uses their smart phone for everything except for actually having a phone conversation, here is a set of rules for conducting a phone conversation.
Set A Good Tone Right From The Start
Since many phones have Caller ID, you probably have a good idea of who’s calling at any given moment. But regardless of if you do or not, start the call off with a clear, articulate greeting. In addition to “Hello”, you may also want to consider a “good morning” or “good afternoon”, or whatever the time is.
It also wouldn’t hurt for you to identify yourself, as in “Good morning, John speaking!”
Watch Your Tone
The beauty of texting and IMs is that people can’t see your expression when you’re doing it. This is both good and bad, because while it hides your true mood or feelings from the person you’re communicating with, you also lose tone and inflection, which can lead to misinterpreted messages.
But when you’re talking on the phone, your tone shines through. With that in mind, you should adopt a low-key, friendly tone of voice. No need to be relentlessly and insincerely cheerful, but definitely keep your tone pleasant.
The article “The Dos and Don’ts of Answering a Business Call” even suggests that you sit up straight and smile.
Excuse Me, But …
If, during the course of the call, something comes up which must be immediately addressed, then extricate yourself with a polite “Excuse me for a moment, I need to deal with something urgent here. Be right back!”.
This is another one of those things that’s not an issue when you’re texting. If you don’t answer right away, hey no problem. You can read the message, take care of whatever little crisis is going on, and then respond afterwards. A real-time call offers no such luxury, and that has to be taken into consideration.
End The Call Properly
Have you ever noticed that in most phone calls shown in movies or tv shows, the person on the phone talks for a while, then just hangs up without even saying something like “Okay, thanks, bye!”? No, it’s just “Blah blah blah, important stuff, blah blah blah … CLICK!”
Much like a lot of other aspects of life in the real world, Hollywood totally has this wrong. Ending a call in the above way usually results in you being branded a jerk, and rightly so!
Refreshing yourself in what constitutes good phone manners can really come in handy, especially if any aspect of your job requires you to spend any significant amount of time on the phone. So smile, take a deep breath, speak clearly, and be polite. Who knows? Considering how rude people can be today, you may stand out and make a great impression on the right person, and benefit from it somewhere down the line!