The new rules of phone calls: how not to be a jerk

angry_on_the_phoneI don’t answer my cell phone anymore (I don’t have a land line) unless it’s a good friend or family member.  I figure if someone doesn’t want to take the time to email me or text me ahead of time to A) let me know why they want to talk; and B) arrange a time, then I’m not going to interrupt what I’m doing at their whim.

So I was thrilled to see this NY Times article last week: Don’t Call Me, I Won’t Call You.

Phone calls are rude. Intrusive. Awkward. “Thank you for noticing something that millions of people have failed to notice since the invention of the telephone until just now,” Judith Martin, a k a Miss Manners, said by way of opening our phone conversation. “I’ve been hammering away at this for decades. The telephone has a very rude propensity to interrupt people.”  Though the beast has been somewhat tamed by voice mail and caller ID, the phone caller still insists, Ms. Martin explained, “that we should drop whatever we’re doing and listen to me.”

Yeah, baby.

If you leave a voicemail, have the decency to explain why you want to talk so I can judge whether a return call is warranted and how soon. I hate it when people leave a "Hey Griff, call me" voicemail and then hang up.

Lastly, speak distinctly, as your voicemail automatically gets translated into text and then sent to me via email and text. 1) It’s very handy to have the text of a voicemail be searchable in my Gmail, with your phone number clickable.  2) If you drone on and on and on in your voicemail, I don’t have to listen to it. Text is fast. Audio is slow.


  1. Michelle Hawkins said:

    I’ve worked in Customer Service in one form or another here in Northfield since 2007. Please don’t read me wrong, I love Northfielders andf it’s a pleasure to get up everyday and spend time with you. I have had the blessing of coming to know most of the people who live here at least by face, if not by name, and appreciate each one of us.

    When at a counter ordering fast food, or in the drive thru, when checking out at a grocery store or shopping in the gift shop.. I am there to help you and maybe even cheer your day. I can do neither if a person is on their cell expecting me to read there mind as they talk to their BFF.

    It’s rude. How would you like it if when you went thru a check out anywhere, and the cashier was in a phone conversation with somebody else the whole time? If this would annoy you in the slightest, why would anyone think it’s ok to do it on the other side of the counter?

    I’ve even had a customer come to me with a complaint, then in the midst of it, stop to take a call, hold their finger up to me and tell me to “wait, this will only take a couple minutes”. With a line of people behind them!

    If a person needs to call someone to get an order or list of things to purchase for them, they should do it BEFORE they approach the transaction, yes even in a drive thru. The people working that window, and most registers everwhere, are timed by a clock that feeds directly into corporate offices. Anything over a minute or less, can affect performance reviews.

    I went to college and a professional development program specifically for CSR training. Top of my class in all. Nowhere did any of my training prepare me for the rudeness of the digitally addicted and telephonically attached.

    So if you see me behind a counter somewhere and you’re on the phone, or texting, finish that conversation before you initiate one with me, please. I’m there to serve you, to get you back to your day, and if I can, bring a smile to your face. I need your attention to do that.

    March 24, 2011
  2. john george said:

    Michelle- AMEN TO THAT!!! I was told recently that Oprah had a presentation on her show about how to avoid salespeople in service related stores. When you walk in, just put your cell phone to your ear and walk around as if you are in a conversation. It will keep you from being accosted by those pesky salespeople who lurk therein. How disgusting!

    March 24, 2011
  3. Tracy Davis said:

    Griff, what’s with this “email or text” nonsense?

    I think you should require a formal, hand-written request for an audience with Your Eminence before you’ll agree to speak to anybody. 🙂

    March 25, 2011
  4. Kathie Galotti said:

    Have i previously mentioned my appreciation of your contributtions?? Witty and concise!

    March 25, 2011
  5. Griff Wigley said:

    Tracy, Madam Queen of the Triumvirate, I’ll take calls from you and Ross most anytime. And since I’m catching flak from Robbie for this ‘arrogant blog post,’ let the record show that she’s the only one who warrants a special ring tone on my phone. (No, it’s not “Born to be Wild.”)

    Those who lean introverted tend to feel interrupted by unplanned phone calls. Those who lean extroverted probably tend to experience them as opportunities. Vive la différence!

    Ever yours so humbly,

    Your Eminence, Griff

    March 26, 2011
  6. john george said:

    Griff- “…this ‘arrogant blog post’…”!?! As opposed to….?

    March 26, 2011
  7. kiffi summa said:

    Griff: I think the key to … dare I say … your “attitude” here is in your original post : “Text is fast. Audio is slow.”

    That’s your POV, and you say you’re an introvert so… the human distance is better for you, and electronic ‘persona’, which also intrudes, a more acceptable ‘intrusion’.

    Personally , I’d much rather have a back and forth conversation (1) in person, (2) on the phone; the wait of a back and forth e-mail conversation is bothersome to me.

    All in the ‘personal’ POV…

    March 27, 2011
  8. Griff Wigley said:

    Kiffi, I’m not objecting to using a phone for conversation. Like you, I often prefer it. It’s the initiation of the contact that I’m referring to.

    March 29, 2011
  9. Tracy Davis said:

    Thanks, Kathie, I appreciate the appreciation!

    March 30, 2011
  10. Griff Wigley said:

    Strib Withering Glance column: Smarter phones, less talking

    RN: I barely know how to use my EVO to actually talk, and if anyone expects me to retrieve a voice-mail message, think again. Who has the time? But my words-per-minute texting skills very nearly rival my keyboard speed.

    CP: I like to text a little as a warmup to an actual phone call. And then have a cigarette afterward.

    April 16, 2011
  11. john george said:

    Griff- That’s OK as long as you don’t start acting like one. 😉

    April 22, 2011

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