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Your phone rings — yes some people like use their phones to make calls Use This 3-Tier Communication System to Resist Distractions Use This 3-Tier Communication System to Resist Distractions The need to constantly stay connected is distracting. To manage your relationships and time, also manage the way you communicate with the world. Create a smart 3-tier plan. Read More  — so you look down and see it’s a call from “Unknown Number”. You’re a bit busy so you can’t answer it right now, so it rings out. 30 seconds later you get a text message: “You have one new voicemail.”

Your day is off to a bad start.

Half an hour later when you get a chance, you listen to the voicemail. It’s you cousin Brian and he just says, “Hey it’s Brian, give me a call back.” Thanks for that Brian. He’s your cousin so you figure what the hell, dig out his number and give him a call. This time it’s Brian who doesn’t answer, you get his voicemail but, because you’re a decent person, you hang up the phone before the beep. You know Brian will see the missed call, know who has called and ring you back.

But he doesn’t. Brian is a prick.

With all the focus on what smartphones can do and how they’re affecting us What Your Smartphone Is Doing To Your Body & Mind What Your Smartphone Is Doing To Your Body & Mind Smartphones are changing us -- is that a good or a bad thing? Find out what science has to say. Read More , many people have lost sight of how to use our phones like an actual, original, dial-a-number phone without behaving like an ass. This isn’t an argument against buying a smartphone 5 Reasons Not To Buy A Smartphone 5 Reasons Not To Buy A Smartphone You may feel pressured into buying a smartphone, even though you're perfectly happy with your (so-called) dumbphone. Don't be. Read More , but just a sad fact of life.

Let’s look at some of the ways people act like pricks, possibly without even realizing it.


Using Private Numbers

There are three kinds of people who hide their number when they’re making phone calls: teenagers making prank calls, spam callers, and creepy exes hoping to trick you into answering the phone. None of these are people you should really be trying to emulate.

If you’re older than 15, the appeal of dialling a local business and asking for “Seymour Butts” or “Ivanna Hump” should really be beginning to wear off. At the very least, you should realise that you only need private number turned on when you’re calling Moe’s Tavern and leave it off most of the time.

I personally think spam callers should be tied up and locked in a room with 300 seven-year-olds who’ve been given a triple espresso, a load of sugar on their cereal, and a drum kit each. That way they might get a small glimpse at the annoyance they spread every day. Are these the people whose phone etiquette you should be modelling yourself on?

Finally, a small bit of advice. If you’re turning on private number in a vain attempt to trick someone into answering the phone, you’ve got a problem. If they don’t want to hear from you, treat the person with a small bit of respect and don’t call them. Odds are they’re not going to be fooled by the sudden increase in calls from private numbers. Again, weird exes like spam callers aren’t the best role models.

Turn off private number. If you’re calling someone, you generally want them to know who you are once you’re talking to them on the phone. Hiding your number just makes it impossible for them to return your call if they miss it… unless you leave a voicemail.

Leaving Voice Mails

Answering machines were a wonderful invention – 50 years ago. You could call someone and, if they didn’t answer, let them know who called and what you wanted. Amazing.

The world, however, have moved on.

What happens when you leave a voicemail? Well the person who you called… gets a text telling them they’ve a new voicemail. So then they have to call the voicemail, sit through a rambling voice message, and — if you’re leaving any information like phone numbers, directions, or addresses — hastily scratch down whatever you say; if they don’t get it all in one go, they have to listen again. It kind of sucks.

Now let’s look at the alternative. You call, they don’t answer so you hang up and then send them a text message (or a message from any other popular app) saying why you called. They still get a single message, but this time, it includes everything you wanted them to know.

If you need to talk them on the phone, you say it and let them know when’s good for them to call back. If you are giving them an address or phone number, you just type it into the message so they have it forever. It’s simple, and more importantly, it’s the decent thing to do.

Not Returning a Call in Return to Your Call

This one is a personal bugbear of mine.

If you call me and I miss it, I’ll return it when I get the chance. If you then don’t answer, that’s grand, but if you turn around and don’t return my missed call with no explanation, you’re an ass.

I get it, more than other forms of communication, phone calls can be time sensitive. The reason you’re ringing is that you need something now and other notifications are too easy to get rid of How to Disable Notifications from Any App in Android How to Disable Notifications from Any App in Android Getting annoying ad notifications on your Android device? Turn them off quickly and easily. Read More . If you’re stranded somewhere and you’re phoning me for a lift, me returning the call an hour later isn’t any use. It is, however, the decent thing to then send a message saying as much. All that’s needed is something like, “Hey, needed a lift. Got it sorted. Talk soon.”

Using a Phone Call When a Text Would Do

I love phone calls. I think they’re under utilized. There are times when you end up sending 30 texts to sort something when a single, three-minute phone call would have done the same job. Some people — especially younger people — are reluctant to make phone calls and it’s annoying. The opposite, however, is arguably a bigger problem: making a phone call when a text would do.

If you’re trying to tell someone you’re running five minutes late, or where to meet later, or update them on something brief, the best way to do it is with a short message. A phone call is invasive. They have to answer it then and there or return the call at a later time. For some things this isn’t important, but if you can say what needs saying in under 140 characters, don’t pick up the phone.

Hanging Things Up

Smartphones are amazing. They’ve completely changed how we communicate. A decade ago, the idea that I’d mainly talk to my friends with selfies Stop Hating On Selfies: 3 Reasons You Should Love Them Stop Hating On Selfies: 3 Reasons You Should Love Them Selfies are all too often written off as the egotistical masturbation of brainless teenagers, but that's a superficial take on them. Here's why. Read More would have sounded ludicrous. With all these wonderful new ways of talking to people using our smartphones though, we’ve lost site of how to use them as phones.

A phone call can be one of the best ways to communicate, but if people start behaving like asses — having private number on, leaving voice mails, not returning calls, or calling unnecessarily — it ruins it for the rest of us.

As ever, we want to hear what you think. What are phone etiquette errors drive you up the wall? Let us know in the comments.

Image Credits:Cracked smartphone by SharkPaeCNX via Shutterstock

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  1. rr
    October 15, 2016 at 2:47 pm

    There are times, especially when I am driving to and from work, (and most if not all of my friends and family are familiar with those times), I prefer a phone call so I can safely answer it via bluetooth. If you send me a text, and many do, I read it later when I arrive home parked in my driveway, sorry if it was important.

  2. Lois
    April 3, 2016 at 3:03 am

    I don't get why leaving s voicemail is rude? Personally I think it's rude for someone to call (showing missed call), and NOT leave a voicemail, nor a text.
    Most people don't bother to check their voicemail, and just call you back....having to repeat what I said in the voicemail... that's annoying.

  3. likefun butnot
    September 8, 2015 at 2:33 pm

    Texting needs to die. I don't understand why anyone would want a messaging service that's made to be tied to a single device when literally any other messaging option can at least be accessed using any device you might happen to have.

    I have a workaround for myself, but as a service or a concept of service, I hate SMS messaging with a passion.

  4. Pravin S
    September 3, 2015 at 7:32 pm

    Very well.. Phone Etiquette 101.. :D

    There are some annoying friends in my circle who change their numbers very often. But they don't bother to inform me about it. They expect me to know their new numbers.. If I don't attend, they think I am avoiding them or I am being rude. WTH!!!

    And they call continuously from various unknown numbers to make me attend the call. That's nasty. It's harassment. I don't entertain such behavior. And I challenge it in my own way :D

    What I actually do..

    I have 2 SIMs in my dual SIM phone. Personal and Professional. No Mix up. Only my family knows both and only during an emergency I encourage them to call me on my work number when my personal number has bad reception.

    I don't attend calls from unknown numbers if it's on my personal number. The best way to make me attend an unknown call is to send me a text about who they are and why they're calling.

    If they call me 100 times continuously in an hour is not going to make me attend the call, but their numbers would go to block or spam filter before they call me for the 5th time within 15 minutes.

    If it's very urgent, I expect the unknown caller to call 911 or 108 or someone who knows their number.. But not me!!!

    I treat all my personal and professional contacts with reasonable priority. And I have all their numbers stored in my phone.

    I attend all calls from my family and friends or even known people. Even if I couldn't, I always send them a polite and immediate message with an appropriate reason, and I return the calls as early as possible. My family and friends know how I treat phone calls and texts.

    If I happen to call someone who (I assume) might not have my number, I always send them a text with basic details before I try calling them. If they didn't return my call, I would try calling them on the next day and leave a text. That's my best effort.

    I don't call anyone between 8 PM and 8 AM unless they are my family or close friends or it's some kind of emergency.

    My service provider provides me Call Managing service and I use it whenever necessary.

    • Mihir Patkar
      September 3, 2015 at 9:24 pm

      Dude, this is like my *ideal* template for how everyone should use the phone.

      • Pravin S
        September 3, 2015 at 10:02 pm

        LOL.. Mihir..
        I guess I didn't steal the outline of your next article.. :p

        Common sense is a curse to have, you know.. because we have to deal with the people who don't have it. :D

        • Harry Guinness
          September 3, 2015 at 10:23 pm

          Yeah, I'm with Mihir. That's a pretty solid strategy for using your phone!

        • Pravin S
          September 3, 2015 at 10:56 pm

          Thank you, Harry.. :) And this write-up of yours would have stimulated the dormant "phone sense" in some people..

        • fcd76218
          September 4, 2015 at 12:32 pm

          With "friends" like yours, who needs prank or nuisance callers.

  5. fcd76218
    September 3, 2015 at 1:06 pm

    If I miss a call and the caller does not give me a hint what it's about, then apparently the call wasn't about anything important and I can safely ignore it.

    • Mihir Patkar
      September 3, 2015 at 1:44 pm

      Yeah, I do this too. If I miss a call and there's no text to say what it's about, I'm not calling back.

    • Harry Guinness
      September 3, 2015 at 10:24 pm

      I dunno, I still return in this case. I don't get so many calls that this is a problem for me.

      • Mihir Patkar
        September 4, 2015 at 12:19 am

        Unpopular Harry is unpopular.

  6. Ben Stutts
    September 3, 2015 at 12:56 pm

    If you have your name blocked when you call someone - why would you expect a call back? Tell me who you are and I MAY call back. If you really have to leave a message - leave a REAL message not a "hey call me" Tell me what you wanted. But please don't leave a long rambling message either. And, if you have to give a phone number - don't rattle it off so quick I can't catch it - and maybe even repeat it slowly.

    • Harry Guinness
      September 3, 2015 at 10:25 pm

      Those are some of the reasons I hate voicemails! A text after makes things so much clearer.

  7. snickers_boston
    September 3, 2015 at 11:55 am

    Haha. Great article. Nailed it.

    • Harry Guinness
      September 3, 2015 at 10:25 pm

      Thanks snickers!

  8. Gabriel Jones
    September 3, 2015 at 11:29 am

    Sorry but voice-mail is essential for a my active lifestyle. Tone and inflection are not conveyed in texts. Also the "snapchat communication is fine for your peers but not for any professional communication. Unless you work for snapchat. Does the sound of someones voice offend you or the thought of active listening?

    • Mihir Patkar
      September 3, 2015 at 1:45 pm

      I believe a phone should be used as a phone (i.e. audio transmission device) only in the direst of emergencies / communicating with someone who can't read well.

    • Harry Guinness
      September 3, 2015 at 10:27 pm

      I really don't follow this. How's voicemail essential for an active lifestyle?

      • fcd76218
        September 4, 2015 at 12:28 pm

        "How’s voicemail essential for an active lifestyle? "
        The same way as texting.

  9. Read and Share
    September 2, 2015 at 11:56 pm

    Harry makes a few good points. But does he have to write like an ass?

    • Mihir Patkar
      September 3, 2015 at 7:21 am

      I'm not sure whether his writing style hurts or helps in articles like this one. What do you think? Was there anything off-putting about it for you?

      • Gabriel Jones
        September 3, 2015 at 11:32 am

        Comes off like a petulant child wrote it. Not to be taken seriously. Now I reread it I think I may of overreacted to a joke post?

        • Mihir Patkar
          September 3, 2015 at 1:47 pm

          It's not a joke post at all. I disagree with the petulant child bit. It's angsty, but it's not child-like.

    • Harry Guinness
      September 3, 2015 at 10:28 pm

      Definitely not a joke post. And I outgrew my angsty phase a few years back Mihir!

      • Mihir Patkar
        September 4, 2015 at 12:21 am

        Lies. Blatant, outright lies. Bad Harry.

  10. Roger J. Caldwell
    September 2, 2015 at 10:16 pm

    Do editors exist anymore? Do they pro re before pubing?

    • Mihir Patkar
      September 3, 2015 at 7:15 am

      Assuming you meant this, yes, we do proof read before publishing. If you saw some mistake, we'll be glad to change it :)

  11. James Rea
    September 2, 2015 at 6:58 pm

    If someone's voicemail ask you to "Please leave a message", wouldn't it be impolite not to do so?

    • Mihir Patkar
      September 2, 2015 at 7:09 pm

      Hahahahha I love this reply. Harry?

    • Harry Guinness
      September 3, 2015 at 10:29 pm

      If someone said "please deal me crack", wouldn't it be impolite not to do so? In all seriousness, unless they can't read, I doubt a text message instead of a voice mail is going to upset anyone.

      • Ken
        January 16, 2017 at 7:45 pm

        Personally, I prefer texts or email to voice calls and voicemail any day of the week. BUT, I have a very good reason that text as a universal message medium or backup (or replacement) for voicemail does not work. A number of people in my area, or at least in my area of interaction, do not have (or at least do not give out the number to) cell phones. Without allowing this discussion to devolve into an argument on why they do this, the point is: the numbers I have for them are their home - VOICE ONLY - phones. If I send them a text message to such a number thinking that it can support text messaging, they instead get an annoying computer voice reading my message to them, and *I* get an extra charge on my bill for the "privilege" of using text-to-voice delivery. Your scenario may work in the future when literally everyone has only devices capable of text messaging. For the present there are still too many variables in the wild which collectively do not allow this to be a polite solution across the board. Voicemail is at this time still the most ubiquitous, most universally understood, and therefore the most polite manner of leaving a message after an unanswered voice phone call.