Phone Etiquette Follies

Today I decided to look up etiquette rules (after I decided to write to the government about stupid things they do), and I found something that must be a relic of an older generation... or something.

Telephone etiquette means being respectful to the person you are talking with, showing consideration for the other person's limitations, allowing that person time to speak, communicating clearly and much, much more.

Your voice must create a pleasant visual impression over the telephone. Good telephone etiquette is important because we cannot see the facial expressions and body language of the other person and they cannot see us.

We must compensate by choosing our words carefully and using much more tone inflection to convey our message than if we were face to face.

Yet billions of dollars are spent annually on the various means of excluding the human factor from communication.

We regularly have to deal with impersonal recorded messages on voice mail that direct us to select a number from a menu or to leave a recorded message.

This is becoming standard business practice and a challenge to good phone etiquette when we are finally able to talk to a person.

We also encounter an ever increasing number of answering machines. These are a useful adjunct to the telephone and used judiciously will enable us to augment our telephone manners.

We get desperate to talk to a real live person and when we do find a human being we are dismayed to find the person lacks the basics of good telephone manners.


Okay, so the first few paragraphs (and by the by, I think this author needed to learn "writing etiquette", because there's this whole idea that every sentence does not require its own paragraph, especially when they are continuations of the same thought) are no big deal, be polite and courteous, don't think the person can see you making air quotes with your hands while you say something sarcastic, etc. I can get behind that. However, what's all this business about the horrors of voicemail and answering machines.

Is this 1993? I do remember, circa that time, people making a big deal about how impersonal it is to have to deal with these phone trees (and yes, that is what it's called when you call a company and have to press numbers to get options you want, so you can stop laughing at the silly word now), but haven't we gotten over that now? Haven't we accepted that companies get a lot of phone calls and it's way cheaper for them to just have a machine filter out useless enquiries? Haven't many of us gotten to the point where we'd rather deal with a machine than a human because humans are awkward?

Oh, wait, maybe that's the bad thing that everyone was worried about?

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