Telephone Etiquette

The world certainly became a smaller place when in1876, Scottish Inventor Alexander Graham Bell patented his new device which produced a clearly intelligible replication of the human voice, in other words, the birth of the Telephone. This device for the first time in history allowed people to converse over many, many miles and before too long, even continents! The telephone quickly became part of any reputable household and you would not be seen without one if you were ‘someone of note’, but they have come a long way since 1876, and today there is hardly a home or business that does not have one, or a person who does not have a mobile phone or a smart watch instead or as well, and these have really taken over from the traditional telephone as we know it.

I must confess in my household I do indeed own a telephone, but not just any old telephone, I have a lovely 1964 traditional Bakelite telephone. Most guests think it is a display piece and I have to prise them off the ceiling when it rings as it is a particularly loud, traditional old-fashioned ring! I do love my telephone, and unlike more modern technology, it never fails me.

Now, one of the most common questions I get asked is ‘What is the correct way to answer a telephone?’ Or 'How do you end a conversation?’ Well, did you know that when Alexander Graham Bell invented this device he believed “Ahoy” would be the best greeting but thankfully this did not catch on, as I would not want people mistaking my drawing room for the bridge of a ship!

So here are my top 5 tips on telephone etiquette for any self-respecting user of the modern or old-fashioned communicating device.

1. Distance

Keep your mouth one and half inches from the telephone. It was calculated that this would be the perfect distance for your mouth and receiver to ensure the best quality in sound. This is still advisable to ensure you are not deafening the person on the other end.

2. Greeting

Begin the conversation by saying your number, but not the full code! This gives the caller the opportunity to make sure they have called the correct number and then can then begin speaking. If sharing a telephone with others you may wish to say ‘(your name) speaking’ so that callers know to whom they are speaking. When the call is over we simply say goodbye.

3. Conversation

The person calling should begin and finish the conversation, remember we never call to invite someone to something as this should be done by a handwritten invitation. We also never shout, swear or act inappropriately on the telephone. If you put the caller on speakerphone you must always let them know if there is another person present who can hear the conversation.

4. Listen:

Always pay attention to the other person and what they are saying. As with a face to face conversation we do not speak over someone or interrupt them until they are finished speaking, only then you may respond.

5. Timings

We never call someone before 9am as this would be considered too early to receive a phone call, and we should not call someone after 9pm as this would be very late in the day to begin a conversation as most of us are preparing to retire for the evening. Sunday lunchtime is also a strict no-no for making telephone calls, unless that time has been previously agreed.

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