Telephone Etiquette at Home



The telephone is an integral part of our world today. Who can imagine life without a telephone? There are many etiquette guidelines depending on where the phone is used – be it at work, at home or on the street! Here then are some basics of home telephone etiquette, written with the new millennium generation in mind!

Firstly, handle the instrument right. Hold the mouthpiece at least an inch away from the mouth. Speaking on the phone equates speaking face to face. The same courtesy and rules apply. In fact, I would go a step further to say extra care must be taken with one’s tone and voice while speaking on the phone as the person on the receiving end cannot see your face and hence may misunderstand your intentions. Always try smiling to yourself as you pick up the phone to greet. It automatically brings about a cheerful tone to the voice. Chewing gum, eating something or punching a keyboard as you talk on the phone shows disrespect for the other person.

When calling someone’s home, it is considerate to always give the person being called plenty of time to get to the phone before hanging up, and to call at a time when they will not disturb people. It is inconsiderate to call too early in the morning; before about 9:00am; or too late at night, after about 9:30pm if the matter is not urgent. Also, it is courteous not to call at mealtimes.

Callers should identify themselves immediately. If the person who answers is not the one you want, give your name and ask if you may speak to the person you’ve called. Ask, ‘May I speak with Ali?’ not ‘Is Ali there?” If you have a lot to talk about and expect the call to be a long one, it is courteous to ask, ‘Is it convenient for you to talk?’ If you are calling to invite someone, let them know that up front, rather than asking first if they are available on a particular night or busy on a particular day. This keeps from putting them in an awkward position if they wish to decline your invitation. If you accidentally dial a wrong number, it is courteous to excuse yourself.

When answering a home phone line, the best way is to say “Hello?”. “Yes?” is never courteous and “Ali speaking” is too formal. Even if the phone has a caller ID facility, it is still preferable to answer the phone with a “Hello?” Saying, “Hi Saif!” can surprise the caller unnecessarily. If the caller asks to speak with someone else and if that person can’t come to the phone, an appropriate reply is “Mum’s here Ms. Mariyam, but is unable to come to the phone right now. Please may I ask her to call you back?” There is no need to give rather personal reasons such as “She is in the toilet or in the shower.” And it is not courteous for a caller to ask for reasons either! Don’t yell out for someone who has been called for. Put the receiver down and go to the person to alert him or her of the phone call. It is rude to screen other people’s calls unless a family member specifically asks you to. In that case, say to the caller “May I please tell mum who’s calling?” rather than “Who is speaking?” And remember, it is always polite to let the caller hang up first.

There are really many aspects of telephone etiquette in varying situations. However, the bottom line is courtesy and politeness.