Simple Phone Etiquette to enhance your relationships

Thursday, January 18, 2007
Upon receipt this morning of a letter from a frustrated daughter who has moved away, and who seems to be calling at times when we just are not available to chat, I responded with a letter myself.

Part of my letter included the following and it dawned on me that this information which has helped me, may help some of you as well.

Phone Etiquette to enhance your relationships

I too find it frustrating to call home when I am away at conferences, or at classes or meetings, etc.

While away, whenever I phone home it's usually not a good time to chat, mostly because the people at home are already involved in an activity which requires their attention apart from our discussion. If the call is for a specific purpose then it's less of an interruption and we can proceed through the call in a swift and efficient manner. In that way I am seen as less of an interruption.

Me: "Hello?"
Your Mom: "Hello."
Me: "Can you pick me up at the airport at 8:45?"
Your Mom: "Why yes I can and let me just say I'd love to do that!"
Me: "Thank you for your kindness and willingness to pick me up."
Your Mom: "You are most welcome sir."
Me: "Farewell then."
Your Mom: "Goodbye, and see you at 8:45pm."

And there you go.
I have not interrupted their rhythm at home and they feel like they can take the time required to work out the specifics.

This kind of a call is much better received when I call home from a distance.

Contrast that kind of a call to one where the general purpose is vague and convoluted.

Me: "Hello?"
Your Mom: "Hello."
Me: "whatcha doin?"
Your Mom: "Nothin. whatcha doin?"
Me, (because I've had more time to prepare for the call than she has and have thought out the answer before she has,): "Talkin to you..."

And so on.
She gets impatient because I am interrupting her dish washing, or her clay work, or her washing up to go to bed.

Your Mom: "Is that all?"
Me: "No."
Your Mom: "Well then, what else?"
Me: "I dunno, I'm just alone."

You see, if the person who calls has a specific purpose, then the call taker is willing to help the loved one with the process of gaining the needed information.

If it looks like the call has no specific purpose then it's better for the caller and callee to have prearranged a time when they will talk on the phone together.

This allows both parties to be emotionally prepared for the call, ready to invest in the call, and their relationship.

It goes something like this;

Cuckoo clock cuckoos 10 times.
Ring ring...

Your Mom: "Hello?"
Me: "Hello, it's me!"
Your Mom: "Why, thank you for calling at our pre-arranged time!"
Me: "Is it ok to chat now?"
Your Mom: "Why yes it is. I've washed the dishes and put the boys to bed and I'm ready and willing to commit to a general conversation regarding the quality of your day. Please proceed."
Me: "Well, the other pastors laughed at me today because we went swimming and they saw the hairy arrow on my back and now they won't stop calling me Hairy Arrow Backed Friesen. This makes me want to cry into my pillow. Pastors can be so mean sometimes."
Your Mom: "Yes they can, but you're better than them. Did you call them names back?"
Me: "Well I could only think of one good one quickly enough. The Rev. Peter Penner has a big pompadour on his head so I yelled at him that so what he was Pompadour Pete!"
Your Mom: "Well next time I'll help you get the rest of the hair off your back and they won't bug you any more. But for now why don't you sneak into their hotel rooms and steal all their free shampoo!"
Me: "Yeah, thanks, that'll teach them. I feel better already. Thanks for this prearranged phone call."
Your Mom: "You're welcome, I'm so glad I could help affirm you and build our relationship."
Me: "Me too. Now, how was your day?"

And so the conversation can continue with a healthy, caring dialogue.

With the pre-arranged phone call, both individuals can be prepared emotionally for the phone call. They are then ready to invest in their relationship. It's like making an arrangement to meet for coffee and a visit.

So, the next time you have to travel and still want that home based connection, try the simple step of having the prearranged phone call.

Your spouse and children will love you for it. And you will be able to sleep peacefully all night, knowing that all is well.


  1. How sweet and subtle.

    Like a brick between the eyes.

    This is the curse of mobile communications in a generation that has never learned to self-entertain. A certain section of your post above really means:

    Me: “Hello?”?
    Your Mom: “Hello.”?
    Me: “whatcha doin?”?
    Your Mom: “Nothin. whatcha doin?”?
    Me: “I'm being a terribly sad person that is bored and wants someone else to provide entertainment so I can while away the hours idly. ”?

    Harsh but true.

  2. Hilarious and true. I foresee this as being one of your best posts of 2007 (just like Ebert can predict that Movie X will be one of the best of the year even though it's only January)

    I may direct Dixie to this post next time she calls me at work for no reason.

  3. YOU have made me laugh today. Thank you.

  4. hi Rand,

    I'm wondering if we could set up a time for a phone you have any openings?

  5. I'm still confused as to why all of these examples involved you and my mom.

  6. I'm trying to remember how it was when I moved out and realized that I rarely called home. I mean rarely. I rarely still call home. I bet they would have been kind of glad to know I still cared. I do understand that it would maybe be annoying on particular days to get these calls for "no reason", but it might not last forever. Be glad they care enough to call. These are the kinds of calls I don't appreciate at work from my kids, so I guess I can relate a bit.

  7. No, no, no, I do appreciate the calls and honestly think its cool that they call, I have no problem with that.

    But it dawned on me that some people do call just to hang out on the phone and may or may not understand that the timing is just poor.

    There is something about Toni's comment there that rings true too. But it also goes from there to the place where the phone is not a barrier to a relationship.

    Previous generations would have seen the phone as a wonderful information passing device. They would see relationships as only do-able in person.

    But for many in this new digital age, the phone isn't a wall to the relationship, its an enabler of relationship.

    I know people who live in the same cities who will call each other and watch a tv show "Together." It enables them to hang out together.

    Where I am ok being in the same room with another person and not feel like I need to keep the conversation going, so others feel that same way on the phone. They are "Together," in that space and time, so silence is appropriate and fitting.

    Older ones of us may see that as a waste of time, or that they are really not "Together" in the sense we have come to understand. But they are together, in ways that are important to them.

    It's actually kinda cool to see how different generations handle the technology differently than previous generations have.


  8. Ya....'cause I sooooo dislike talking on the phone....count me out of the conversation. ;-))

  9. "it also goes from there to the place where the phone is not a barrier to a relationship."

    Yes, I know.

    To me a phone is a device for calling people when you must - a last resort. I also can't get past the idea that it costs money (it's costing *someone* *somewhere* money even if your minutes are free) if you're hanging on the phone. I also find I prefer communicating through the written form - odd but true - speech isn't really something I like as I tend to spout rubbish from my mouth.

    I guess someone will suggest I spout rubbish from my fingers too. :p

    Maybe I'm just a phone-o-phobe.

  10. "But for many in this new digital age, the phone isn"t a wall to the relationship, its an enabler of relationship."

    Also a sustainer of relationships I would dread to think what it would be like not to be able to call Kita up whenever for whatever.

  11. I tend to agree with Marc and I foresee this as one of your best posts of the year. Humorous, insightful, educational and I think I darn near peed my pants.

  12. My new tagline:

    Making people pee, one bladder at a time.

  13. yeah, I didn't really get that whole cheese thing you had at the top for awhile.

    and yeah, I'm aware that everyone else has more of a life than I do, but sometimes, when I call home, it'd be more efficient to listen to me and pretend to care, and offer caring advice, than to be quiet and at the end say, "ok, so are you done now?" I'd get off the line faster, and I'd be less pissed.

    Sometimes you're the only people I know to call, and I know you'll care enough to talk me off the ledge I put myself on. Plus, maybe I call because I know you're older and wiser, and maybe I figure you've already done whatever hard thing I'm working through. And I usually email, but sometimes it's an urgent thing, and you don't answer emails for days, where a phone call would take half an hour and the thing is solved.

    meh. I don't really call you too often anyway. just don't be too brusque with people. it hurts sometimes.

  14. Still waiting for that tagline to change...

  15. Yeah, it does seem that some people call at the most inopertunemoment. HOWEVER, there are times when I think that maybe we should take the time to just talk-about nothing maybe. I have a son who phones every day. What I do, is, not answer the phone until the time suits me. Not a nice thing to do. I also have a friend where I do the same thing. These may be hurting people, so Ifeel that we maybe we should change our thinking and do the Godly thing-pick up the phone chat with them, especially relatives or close friends. What say!

  16. Johanna I know you don't know me but you can call me and I will listen to you even if your uncaring parents won't


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