How To Have Perfect Telephone Etiquette For Every Occasion

Everywhere you look these days, people are glued to their phones. From young kids to the elderly, it seems we all have the bug. Has telephone etiquette gone out the window, or can we still claw back some manners when we use our phones?

With the ever-increasing demand for technology, it makes the opportunity to slip up far greater. In this post, I’ll be giving you tips on how to practice excellent telephone etiquette at every occasion!

Is telephone etiquette important?

In the past, phones didn’t interfere with our lives too much. We answered the phone, took a message then carried on with our life. Phones are common, and they intrude on our lives on a monumental scale.
With the ever-increasing demand for technology, it creates the opportunity to make a faux par far greater too.
Now, people use phones everywhere :

  • Restaurants
  • Public restrooms
  • Gym changing rooms
  • The gym floor
  • Poolside at the swimming baths
  • At the family dinner table
  • In bed
  • In shops
  • In classrooms
  • And virtually every other public and private space you can think of.

There has never been a better time to teach ourselves and our children proper phone etiquette and good communication skills so that technology and social media stop controlling our lives and our relationship with others.

Making phone calls.

I believe there are two types of people who use the phone, there’s the good cop, who is always kind and courteous, and there is the bad cop, who likes to throw his weight about and get bolshy with the other person.

Don’t be the bad cop no matter how the other person is behaving.

Just because the caller can’t see you, it doesn’t mean that you can behave in a way that you wouldn’t act if you were face to face.

  • Have a plan. Think about what you want to say, do you want to make it brief or do you want to have a long catch up with the person who answers the call. Think about what you want to get out of the call and plan your time accordingly. Don’t rush the conversation.
  • Be nice! Ok, so you’ve had a bad day, work’s been hideous, and you’ve had a row with your spouse, don’t make a phone call unless you can use a pleasant tone with the person answering the call, even if it’s them you are mad at!
  • Make an effort to sound glad that the person you are calling has answered the phone.
  • Be upbeat. If you need to make a complaint about poor customer service or a product you have bought, you should make an effort to make your voice sound warm, cheerful and upbeat, this will start the conversation on the right footing, and you will likely get a much better result.
  • Introduce yourself. Identify yourself by letting the other person know your name and the reason for your call then establish who you are talking to, make sure you get their name rather than a generic “I’m the sales clerk “.
  • Speak clearly and confidently.
  • Smile. When I worked as a dispensing optician, we were taught to smile as we answered or made calls to customers as this automatically brightens up your voice.
  • Try not to slouch as your body language also affects the tone of your voice. Sit up straight whenever you are on a call.
  • Avoid any distractions. Turn off the tv and your computer screen, even though you think you can still chat while is it on you will always get distracted and the other person will be able to tell!
  • Ask if it is a convenient time to call. It doesn’t matter what time of the day it is; you should always begin your call by asking the other person if it is a convenient time to call. This allows them to rearrange the call if they are busy; this is especially helpful when calling people with small children who may be bathing, feeding or putting their kids to bed. However, if you are calling customer support to complain about your customer experience, I wouldn’t ask someone to call you back, you may never get a call!
  • Take notes. If your memory is anything like mine, you may need to write any important details down, especially dates, names and phone numbers. This is particularly important if you are making a complaint as you may need to recall the details later.
  • End the call on a positive note. Be sure to thank the person for their help before you end the call.

Telephone etiquette, receiving calls.

As with making a call, the way you receive a call is equally as important in the world of telephone etiquette.

  • Answer within three rings. It would be best if you always made an effort to answer the call within three rings. After the fourth ring, the phone usually gets connected to answering services and will then click to voice mail. Voice mail is convenient if you are busy or if you are working from home and need to screen your calls.
  • Never give out any personal details to the caller unless you know them and are completely sure who you are speaking to.
  • Call back. If you are in any doubt about the caller’s identification, for instance, if it’s a call claiming to be from your bank, hang up and call the bank yourself using the number listed on their website.
  • Never call someone back on a number that the caller has given you unless you are confident that you know their identity.
  • Wait until it’s convenient to answer. If you are in company and the phone rings you have two options, you can either answer it or wait until you are free to call them back. If you decide to answer the phone there and then you are indicating that the person calling is more important than the person that you are in conversation with, this is both rude and disrespectful and very irritating for the person you were talking with.
  • Ask the caller to call you back. In this situation the only people I would ever answer the phone to are: my parents, spouse, kids or school. These could indicate an emergency. If there is no emergency, I would l tell the caller that I will call them back later, to prevent upsetting the person I was talking with.
  • Let it go to voicemail. In most other cases, you should let the call go to voice mail and pick it up later. If you are expecting an unavoidable call, let the person you are in a conversation with know about it in advance, to avoid appearing rude.

Using call waiting.

I never use call waiting as I feel that you are indicating to the first caller that the second caller is more important than them. I also hate it when someone bins my call to speak to someone on call waiting; it almost always causes me offence!

Getting rid of unwanted phone calls.

This one always makes me laugh because when my spouse receives an annoying unwanted phone call, he turns the call around and starts telling the caller all about how his wife has left him with four kids and a dog. He eventually bores the caller so much that they end up hanging up the phone on him! Now I’m not suggesting that this is how you approach an unwanted call, so here are a few tips to get rid of unsolicited phone calls.

  • Unwanted sales calls. When answering unwanted sales calls, I try to remember that the person making the call is only doing their job. I try to remain polite, even if the caller is rude. If the person calling is rude to you, you are quite right to end the call immediately without responding. It is never ok to be verbally abusive or to use foul language to anyone on the phone.
  • Wrong numbers. If you are inundated with wrong numbers, and it is a persistent problem, speak to your phone provider. Always be polite when answering a wrong number as it isn’t the caller’s fault that they’ve been given the wrong number. If you make a wrong call, apologise and hang up, then check the number is correct before making the call again.
  • Prank calls. A heavy breather or a prank caller usually does it for the reaction they receive from you. If you don’t respond to them, they should give up quite quickly. Allow your answer machine to pick up phone calls for the next few times, and then, if they call again, you can block the caller via the options on your phone. If you are bothered by reoccurring nuisance calls, or if you have received a threat over the phone, notify the police immediately and record the details in a diary for reference.

Telephone etiquette, who ends the call?

Generally these days, it doesn’t matter too much who ends the call, but in business, the receiver of the call should always be the one to end it when they are satisfied with the outcome of the call.

Phone answering etiquette in public

  • At a paid event. Turn your phone off when you enter a theatre, a concert hall, a business meeting or a cinema. Nobody wants to listen to you rabbiting on when they are at a paid event.
  • Phone etiquette on public transport. If you’re on public transport or in another public area, keep your voice down and try not to be too obnoxiously loud on the phone. Nobody wants to hear your business on their way back from work on a cold and dark winters night!
  • In a shop. Do not talk on the phone while you are being served in a shop, as this is the height of bad manners to the person who is helping you at the till! Show some respect and manners to the assistant.
  • In a restaurant. Put your phone away and concentrate on the company you are with if you need to call the babysitter, excuse yourself from the table and make the call outside.

Handling a disconnected phone call.

The correct etiquette when dealing with a disconnected phone is to remember that it is the responsibility of the person who made the call to call back.

If we all remembered this tip, then we wouldn’t have the annoying problem of the engaged tone while we both people are trying to call each other back!

How to teach phone etiquette to kids

Everyone knows that young kids love to race to pick up the phone and answer it before you, so it’s a good idea to teach them some phone manners.
A great way to do this is to give them a telephone etiquette introduction by doing some role play and showing them some telephone etiquette examples.

  1. Use role play

    Teach them how to answer a phone, say hello and to actively listen to what the other person is saying.
    You could do a practice run by phoning the house phone from your mobile and pretending to be a stranger.

  2. Teach your child how to take turns to speak.

    Teach your kids not to interrupt the other person, to listen, then to speak.
    If your toddler is usually silent when they are on the phone, don’t force them to speak to other people. Forcing a shy toddler to talk on the phone will only create a vast silence for the person on the other end of the phone.

  3. Teach your child how to handle an emergency.

    Use role-play by pretending there has been an accident and teaching the kids how to dial emergency services. Teach them how to ask for medical answering services like the ambulance, and how to answer the questions that the 999 call handler might ask them.
    Now is an excellent time to teach your child your address, write it down and display it in a place where they can find it in an emergency.
    It would be best if you taught your kids how to stay on the line until the emergency services arrive.
    Children of all ages should know when and how to dial 999.

  4. Set time limits

    You should monitor your child’s phone use and set time limits.
    Children should not be left with phones unsupervised in their room overnight.
    As a parent, it’s your responsibility to stay up to date with the latest technology and monitor closely social media, chat, apps and any other technology that your child interacts with.

    teen checking social media

  5. Teach your child stranger danger.

    Remind your kids never to get into a conversation with strangers, but to say “who would you like to speak to? Please wait, and I will get them for you.”
    Teach them not to give their name or to say that they are home alone. A child of any age should always say that a parent is unable to come to the phone right now rather than saying that they are not home.

  6. Teach your child how to take a message.

    Older children can be taught how to take a message when someone is unable to come to the phone.

  7. Telephone etiquette and toddlers

    If you want to ring your mum and fancy a long chat, it would be better to wait until after the kids have gone to bed or until you’ve finished your session at the supermarket. The call won’t feel rushed if you’re not distracted by other things, and you can give the other person your undivided attention.

Telephone etiquette for students, teenagers and tweens.

teen checking social media
  • Give guidance. Younger kids who are still learning how to navigate life should be given some help with social media and chat etiquette. As children and young adults, we didn’t have to worry about screenshots of conversations or cyberbullying, so we must give our kids some guidance and mobile phone etiquette training. They will still make some monumental mistakes, but hopefully, a little pep talk about the rights and wrongs of using social media and chat will help them make better decisions in the future.
  • Monitor your child’s phone. Kids who are using phones much younger these days, so it’s imperative that you monitor your child’s phone daily.
  • Be prepared to see some things you’d rather not see! For instance, my daughter’s social skills when conversing with her friends was shocking and could easily have been misconstrued as rudeness. So, a quick chat to explain to her how to talk to people via messenger and on group chats was all it took to improve her social skills.
  • Teach your child to stay out of the drama! Chat to your child about staying out of other people’s drama. Teach them not to involve themselves in other peoples issues and to mind their own business!
  • Chat to other parents to establish the best time for your kids to call each other, and how long you’d like your kids to stay on the phone to each other.
  • Don’t send photos. Teach your child not to share images of any kind to anyone if they wouldn’t want them to be shared!
  • Don’t share photos. Teach your child the etiquette of not sharing photos of their friends unless the person in the picture has permitted them to share their image.
  • Teach them about stranger danger. Talk to them about not chatting to, and not arranging to meet strangers over the phone.
  • No answering the phone to numbers they don’t know or recognise or a call from a number listed as caller withheld
  • Text etiquette. Teach your child not to text anything to anyone that you wouldn’t want your parents to read, explain that people screenshot everything these days, then show it to everyone, so be careful what you put out there.
  • Don’t pester people over the phone. Your child should know that if someone doesn’t answer, they are most probably busy and they should give the person time to call back.
  • Don’t air your dirty laundry in public. Explain how to keep things private so as not to cause drama.
  • Check your child’s privacy settings. Make sure your kids cant be befriended by or contacted by anyone that they don’t know.
  • Don’t be tempted to ignore the minimum age for apps; they are there for a reason. You may have heard recently about the horrendous clip of a man who committed suicide to a live Facebook audience, which was screened to millions of TikToc users, many of whom were under 12 years old. There are no words to help a child who has seen something so shocking, and it’s something they will never be able to unsee.

Yes, my kids have a strop when I don’t allow them on inappropriately aged apps. Yes, they pester and pester. Yes, they tell me that everyone in their class has got it and they are the only one that hasn’t. Yes, they make my life hell and say I’m a horrid parent. Yes, I feel tremendous guilt about it, but, when I read things like that in the news, I’m always glad I stuck to my guns!

For a more in-depth look at keeping your kids safe on the internet read this post from Childline.

Telephone etiquette in the workplace.

  • Get dressed. Many people work from home now, the lines have blurred between dressing appropriately for work and taking a call in your pyjamas. My advice is, if your working from home, get dressed and put some shoes on, this will trick your brain into being courteous and business-like from the off!
  • Don’ t slouch, slump, read other emails or papers whilst taking a business call, the caller will know that you are distracted and you will come across as unprofessional.
  • Identify yourself and your company immediately and explain why you are calling.
  • Ask for a callback. If the person you are calling is not available, leave your name, company and number and ask them to call you back.
  • If you prefer to call them back, ask when would be a good time to call.
  • If you get redirected to a voice mail, state your name, company, the reason for calling, number and a very brief message.
  • Avoid making personal calls at work and avoid calling friends or family if you know they are at work. The only exception to this is if it is an emergency.
  • Do not eat, drink or shuffle papers when you are on the phone. Many people work at their desk or home during their lunch break, do not be tempted to take a call when you are eating, drinking or smoking. Take a break; you deserve a lunch hour!
  • Speak directly into the phone, don’t be distracted by your work colleagues, or your toddler!
  • Avoid using slang words like love or honey when on a business call, stay professional throughout, speak clearly and use proper grammar.
  • Think before you speak and have a plan of what you want to say.
  • Do not interrupt people when they are speaking, allow them to finish before you start to talk, especially when handling a complaint!
  • Avoid confrontation and use positive language.
  • Try not to appear rushed, no matter how busy you are!
  • If you work with the public in a cafe, restaurant, hospital, bar or on a shop floor, never be answering phones, texts or checking social media in front of customers.

Kids rules of telephone etiquette FREE PDF!

Download your free telephone etiquette training PDF especially for kids, teens and tweens!

phone etiquette for kids pdf

If you enjoyed these telephone etiquette tips let us know in the comments.


Is it rude to screen a call?

If you are working from home or busy with your kids it’s perfectly fine to screen a call and phone back when you have more time. however if you cant be bothered to talk to the caller then that could appear rude if you were to screen the call.

telephone etiquette.

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