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Friendship and Phone Etiquette – The Top Five Mistakes Friends Make On The Phone
Building and maintaining friendships requires a number of important skills. An often overlooked aspect involves telephone etiquette. By making mistakes in this area, you may inadvertently annoy existing friends and drive away new ones. Here are the five worst crimes:
1. Forget to “clean” the call
When a friend answers the phone in response to your call, remember to first identify yourself and ask for your timing. The callers often approach their own agenda, failing to think that they might disturb their friends.
Example: “Hi Bill, this is Ron. I just called to hang out. Is this a good time to talk?”
Be sure to identify yourself because some people aren’t good at recognizing voices – especially if you’ve just met them – and can be uncomfortable having to guess. More problematic, when you don’t ask if friends are free to talk, you put them in the awkward position of having to interrupt and explain that they can’t stay on the phone.
2. Abusing call waiting
Nobody likes to feel let down, but call waiting users often make people feel that way. When friends of an acquaintance of mine ask him to hold the call, he replies: “Hey, what am I, chopped liver?” I agree. I believe that if you reach me on the phone, I will reach you first, and I owe you a complete call.
If you feel you must use call waiting, do two things. First, limit the number of interruptions. I know people who put the phone down three and four times during a conversation to check incoming calls. As I twiddle my thumbs, I fight the urge to hang myself in disgust.
Second, inform the person who is already on the line with you that you are waiting for an important call and you will interrupt when you come in. That way, your friend is warned and hopefully doesn’t feel dismissed.
Some use call waiting for valid reasons. A relative may be in poor health, or an ongoing crisis may require their immediate availability. They can expect a guest who will call about the time of arrival or asking for directions.
Other people, I suspect, obsessively answer the call waiting beep for fear they’re missing something. Sometimes he teases a friend who can’t ignore the beep, “You better hurry – you don’t want to miss that $200 million from the Publisher’s Company House!”
3. Talk non-stop
Some people have difficulty ending a phone call. We are often afraid to hear from them, especially when we have things to do. Sometimes I talk to acquaintances who simply do not know how to put a period at the end of a sentence. They connect each statement to the other with the word “and”, thoughtlessly preventing an equal exchange. The answering machine screening option was invented for such people.
Marathon speakers typically ignore hang-up cues. When we try to end the conversation, we often disregard our efforts, failing to recognize the generally accepted signals that people use when they want to get off the phone. Here are a couple of examples:
“Okay then, Karen, I’m really glad you called. It was a treat to hear from you.”
“Well, Steve, this was fun! We’ll talk again soon.”
Note the sentences in bold. Using the past tense is the most common way to let others know you want to end a call.
I feel trapped whenever someone ignores the signs and continues to explore new topics. It’s a tough dilemma because I don’t want to be rude, but I want to get off the phone.
People are marathon speakers for various reasons, including feeling lonely or bored, wanting to vent or gossip, or needing an audience to entertain. Whatever the reason, they predictably leave numerous voicemail messages for people who are, mysteriously, almost always out of the house.
Many people pride themselves on their ability to do additional “productive” things while on the phone. Some can pull it off and their phone mates won’t notice their split focus, but most can’t.
Here are the gifts: they don’t always follow through on conversational points appropriately, they have a vague or distant tone of voice intermittently, and they make noise in everything they do. I heard paper shredding (going through their mail), water running (doing the dishes), babies crying (changing diapers or feeding), and – I’m not kidding – the sound of tinkling ( sitting on the pot).
Most of us prefer to chat with people who can give us their undivided attention.
5. Misusing voice mail
Without a doubt, voice mail is a great convenience, but many people unknowingly annoy the hell out of their friends by abusing it. Here are a few guidelines:
As with person-to-person calls, always start your message by identifying yourself, and then be brief. Most people don’t want to hear long, droning messages. They want a quick one that they can type and act on.
Also, do your best to structure your message to avoid unnecessary return calls. For example, if you want to change the time of an appointment, say the following: “Kathy, I would like to change our appointment from seven o’clock to seven thirty. If that’s okay, don’t call. If not. , call me at 555-4343 and we’ll figure something out.”
Leave your phone number every time – not everyone has it memorized – and say it slowly. Be sure to leave the correct number if you are somewhere other than your home and do not have your mobile phone.
Since most people already know how voice mail works, use a short greeting. I once returned a call to a client whose greeting consisted of her five-year-old son snapping his fingers and humming the entire theme to the Partridge Family TV series — twice. I was trapped in cell phone hell.
For years, my uncle Tony offered a short, reassuring message: “You know what to do. Do it.”
My all-time favorite, though, is the phone message from a musician friend. He wins the prize for brevity when he says: “Your only!”
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