Until recently, dealing with people on the phone was something I rarely did, so I made, and still make mistakes. But there are a few things that tend to irritate me; mistakes I try not to make myself.


I do not answer the phone with my name; not my first name, and certainly not my last name. I also do not put any kind of identifying information on an answering machine or voice mail message, only the number that's been reached. There's a good reason for this: I did not initiate the communication, and therefore I have no idea who is calling. My opinion is that it is the caller's responsibility to identify themselves before I give out any kind of information voluntarily. Because of this people tend to assume I'm curt, or even rude. Fine.

* * *

If you initiate a call, state your name and then who you wish to talk to.

Let me repeat this. When you initiate a call, it is your responsibility to state who you are, who you wish to speak to, and usually why you are calling. If I don't get this information I will ask, "May I ask who's calling?" If you still choose not to identify yourself, I choose not to talk to you—your answer will be a *click*.

(Note that by federal law, telemarketers are required to identify themselves by name, and the company they are working for immediately. It isn't even legal to ask for the head of the household then identify themselves to that person. See: Facts you should know about Telemarketing)

* * *

Technology is wonderful, but it can be inconvenient at times. If you are initiating a call, you are causing a person to stop what they are doing to deal with your call. Usually this is not a problem, but if it is and the party you reached needs to keep the call short or ask you to call back, you really don't have a right to be offended as long as they remain polite.

* * *

People assume that I'm my father because our voices are similar, especially over the phone. This happens often enough in almost any household that people should know, or at least learn not to make this kind of assumption. There are rare exceptions to this, but it's not safe to assume you can reliably recognize someone by voice, or be recognized by voice. Remember that the quality of the connection can distort a voice.

There are a number of factors that can make it difficult to be clearly understood over the phone. Always take this into consideration and be polite if you were not understood or you misunderstand. If you need to leave a message it is your job to speak clearly and give all information necessary for your desired contact to call you back if they choose. Do not assume that the person you're trying to reach will know who "Jane" is. If the person you did reach repeats the message back to you, or asks you to repeat information, do not get impatient. Be grateful they care enough to make sure the information is right.

* * *

Avoid talking to other people while you're on the phone. Similarly, do not try to talk to someone while they're on the phone. It almost always makes them miss both what you said and what the person on the other end of the line said, and it's exceedingly discourteous. (This is one mistake I still make.)

* * *

Never dial a phone and then start talking to someone else in the room while waiting for an answer. You will confuse the person who answers, and your attention is diverted so that the conversation invariably goes something like this:

Answerer: Hello?
You: ... (Either you say nothing, or you're talking to someone else.)
Answerer: Hello?
You: Hello?
Answerer: (Getting annoyed.) Hello?
...
(This is the point which I'm usually tempted to just hang up.)
Annoyances on the InternetI Say What I Mean. Do You?It's Just a WordMiscellaneous Rants • Phone Rants • Preempting TV ProgrammingPunctuation/Spelling Rant"Team Player"Why Blinking Text is BadWords I Hate