Nov 042010

Red phone box

For this column, I would like to turn the tables a bit and ask you about your thoughts on phone etiquette. Is there something that irritates you when it comes to talking on the phone, voicemail, and all related voice communication activities?  Do you have a unspoken system with friends, family or colleagues for talking on the phone?

This idea came to me during a conversation with a friend.  We both agreed that in our circle of friends there is an undocumented system for phone etiquette.

  • Phone calls are almost never used for invitations.
  • Calling someone and not leaving a voicemail means that you were just calling to chat.
  • Calling someone and leaving a voicemail saying that you were just calling to chat means that you would really appreciate a call back – enough that you actually interrupted this person with a voicemail, but there is nothing extremely urgent.
  • Calling someone and leaving a specific voicemail means it’s very urgent and requires a call back.

From a more professional perspective I have noticed a trend toward people not scheduling phone meetings for a specific date and time, but instead suggesting that I just call anytime on a certain date.  Have you noticed this as well?  It’s strange to me, because I’m confident that the chance that someone will be at their desk when I call is pretty much slim to none.

Overall, I consider communication via phone to be a bit of a hassle.  It is excellent for complex conversations, especially those where it’s important to be able to discern subtle emotional cues.  It’s also wonderful for easily catching up with friends and family.  However, it is only one of the many options we have for communicating in 2010 – Twitter, Facebook, email, text message, instant message, etc.  Of course, the best communication tool to use depends on what you and the other person can access and the end goal of the conversation.

For more reading on what some folks think about the phone, check out these articles:

Phone Numbers Are Dead, They Just Don’t Know It Yet

Clive Thompson on the Death of the Phone Call

What do you think? Love the phone? Hate the phone? Share with us!