I was never specifically taught good telephone manners, I think, my house was pretty relaxed about it- we answered the phone with “hello” and I don’t recall ever asking “may I ask who is calling” or anything like that. But for the most part, I don’t think people really expect that. Though those kind of extra good manners do help out sometimes.
I have a great etiquette book from the 1950s called Etiquette for Young Moderns that lays out telephone manners as:
- Being conscious of your voice and tone.
- Answer in a brisk, cheerful manner.
- Identify yourself as soon as you pick up the receiver.
- Always ask who is calling if the person doesn’t identify themselves
- Give your complete attention to the phone call, don’t have side conversations with people in the room.
- Treat wrong numbers politely
- Make sure you dial the correct number.
- Plan the timing of your calls so you don’t interrupt meals.
- If the person who you are calling isn’t home, leave at least your name so they don’t have to wonder who called.
- If you can’t hear the person, state that to them so they can adjust their voice.
A lot of these rules are still actually pretty good! Even for cell phones!
I think some key things for telephone etiquette today are:
- Being conscious of where you are- don’t talk on your phone while a cashier is ringing you up. Especially don’t talk in quiet places like a house of worship, library, theater, or movie theater. And don’t text in most of those places either.
- Don’t speak loudly in public, no one wants to hear your conversation (and it has been proven that listening to a one sided conversation is more distracting than listening to two people talk in your presence.)
- Speak clearly.
- If you are picking up a call from say, a company where you are interviewing for a job or your doctor’s, identify yourself when you pick up the phone: “This is Theodore” so that they know right away they have the right person.
- Keep it on silent or vibrate when you are with others.
- Put it away when dining with others or in meetings and other times when you are with other people. Be focused on the people you are with.