|A reasonable reaction upon answering the telephone|
and being confronted by a rude caller
We fell into a conversation that eventually turned to the topic of the sorry state of manners in today's world, and our shared belief that telephone manners, in particular, had reached a new low. As an example, JL recounted a telephone conversation he had at home one recent evening:
Caller: Is Bobby there?
JL: May I ask who's calling, please?
JL: Peter who?
Caller: Peter Porterhouse
JL: Oh, hello Peter, this is Bobby's father. How are you?
JL: I'm sorry, but Bobby isn't available right now. May I take a message for him?
Caller: No, I'll try him later.
JL: Okay, thanks Peter. Nice speaking with you.
JL: Goodbye Peter
JL was particularly irritated by this exchange because he knew Peter Porterhouse, one of his son's friends and a regular visitor at JL's house. We both agreed that Peter was a boor, but since he was still relatively young—a teenager—we agreed that it wasn't necessarily his fault but rather that of his parents, who raised him to be an ill-mannered oaf, without (for starters) instilling in him basic good telephone manners.
I then related a telephone conversation I had one recent weekend afternoon, where the caller was even ruder:
Caller: Who is this?
RD: Excuse me?
Caller: Who is this?
RD: What do you mean, "Who is this?" Who's calling, please?
Caller: [pause] . . . uh . . . this is Sandra
RD: Sandra who? Who are you calling?
Caller: Where's Mike?
RD: I believe you have the wrong number.
Even though this was obviously a wrong number, I found this call particularly annoying because the caller who initiated the call did so by asking me who I was, rather than identifying herself to me first, and then hung up on me when I informed her that she had dialed the wrong number, without any acknowledgment or apology.
Dear Reader, I share these two conversations with you as prime examples of callers who clearly did not appreciate, or had not been properly trained in, the rudimentary rules required when initiating a telephone call.
In my view, these rules are:
Rule Number 1: When making a telephone call you must always begin the call by identifying yourself to the person who answers the phone. Unless you recognize his/her voice and are on first-name basis with him/her and speak with him/her regularly, and are confident that he/she will immediately recognize who it is that is calling him/her, then you must identify yourself by stating your full name, including both your first and last names, such as "Hello, this is Reggie Darling. I'm calling to speak with Emily Toplofty. Is she there, please?"
Rule Number 2: Never initiate a telephone conversation by asking, "Who is this?" You may only seek to learn the identity of the person who has answered the telephone after you have identified yourself first. The proper way to do so is to ask, "With whom am I speaking, please?"
Rule Number 3: If you have dialed the wrong number, it is incumbent upon you to say, "Excuse me, I believe I've dialed the wrong number." You may thus politely terminate the phone call.
Rule Number 4: When the person who has answered the telephone identifies herself to you as someone other than the person you are seeking to speak with, you must respond with a polite acknowledgement, such as "Oh, hello Mrs. Toplofty, I hope you are well."Rule Number 5: Always end a telephone conversation with some form of closing salutation, such as "Goodbye," or "Talk to you soon," or "Thank you." Never simply hang up the telephone without closing out the conversation first.
In summary, I believe it is the responsibility of the person initiating a phone call to inform the person answering the telephone of their identity and the purpose for the call. The caller should also be prepared to engage in a brief exchange of pleasantries, as a matter of courtesy, with the person on the other end of the line. Finally, the caller should always conclude the call with some form of acknowledgement that the call has been completed by both the caller and the person with whom they have spoken.
These are the rules I follow when I call someone on the telephone, and I believe every other civilized person should too. I'm heartened to know that I am not alone in believing this, given my former colleague JL's emphatic agreement.
Tell me, what do you think?
Photograph courtesy of LIFE Images