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On Phone Etiquette

Tahlia Palmer: Steady Eye

On Phone Etiquette

Andrew Ryan

I must be the only 24 year old in the western world without a mobile phone. Hell, the only PERSON in the western world without a mobile phone. It’s certainly felt like that for the two months going to and from work every day, sitting on public transport listening to music or reading the ridiculously long and in-depth sci-fi/conspiracy theory book I’ve been working through since July, watching every other person on that god forsaken train at that godforsaken regular-person time of the morning checking their emails or their facebook every fucking 5 minutes. And the texting, all these texts messages flying between so many interconnected humans, apologising about fights or planning their lunch date or saying something funny about their kids or whatever, they’re all doing it, all interacting digitally while I’m stuck with the iPhone that can only be used as a music player and alarm clock, ignoring the contemporary pressure to always be at reach, preferring to nurture my own desire to decide exactly how and when I will communicate with somebody else. Fuck it, why do I need a mobile phone when I’ve got the Internet at home and a landline at work for mum to call me on in case of a family emergency?

I used to be scared of talking on the phone. I got fired from the best job I ever had when I was about 19 years old because of this fear (I was a photographer’s assistant; it was great while it lasted, albeit extremely briefly). I don’t know where the fear came from, probably just the usual insecure nonsense that comes from being more introverted than most of the world I had experienced by that point, but since not having a phone on me at all times, and only using the work phone for work/bureaucratic reasons, I’ve come to realised I’m pretty good at it now. Or- at least- FEELING pretty good at, good enough to warrant a facebook status update about it. And feeling is important, if I’m feeling like I’m good at it, then I probably will get better.

Giving a shit about good phone interaction makes me notice it other people too. Before, I didn’t care about the quality of service on the other end of the line, generally. Call a place, get the information, hang up, whatever. But now, NOW, I’m hyper aware of all the details. Let me surmise it for you, because if you’re still reading this you probably give half a shit about it too.

1. When the person you are calling answers, always introduce yourself, and if they don’t give theirs in return, ask for it. Knowing each other’s name makes communication more pleasant… that being said, overusing someone’s name is weird, because it’s obvious you’re trying too hard. Just relax, use the name when it’s fitting, like when you’re thanking them, or asking them an additional question and you guys will get along okay.

2. Be clearly spoken. Mumbling is the worst. Speaking too fast is pretty shit also. Not everyone has equal hearing, so you know, just keep it clear. Not difficult. For example, non-native speakers of English who slow down their speech to make it more clear for everybody are doing a lovely thing, and they should be rewarded with a thankful tone and a smile in your speech. Which leads me to the next one:

3. Smile when you’re talking. Instant nicer time for everyone involved. You can hear a smile. You know you can. And smiling automatically makes everybody feel better because of endorphin releases from the muscle movements or something. Shitty science, fact! And laughing is cool too, if it’s warranted. These things make everyone’s job and day easier because we’re forgetting our stresses and simply exchanging information in the most relaxed way we can. Nice, right?

4. Don’t snap, even if they seem to be an idiot. What’s the point in getting shitty at the person on the other end of the phone just because you’re worried about bills or whatever? Man, the chances of them having problems equal to or greater than yourself are fairly high. And even if they’re one of the lucky carefree people with no bills piling up or no leaks in their house or they have unlimited healthy food options when they get home, it doesn’t mean you have to be a dick. No one has to be a dick, ever, and choosing to be a dick is selfish and counter productive. Asshole. Go home and think about your life without the distraction of any kind of media for a while and then see how you feel about everything. I dare you to try and justify your shitty attitude in a logical, reasonable manner.

So there you go: a fairly pointless but possibly helpful explosion of thought about phone etiquette from my 9-5-work-fried brain. Maybe you, like me, feel like it’s possible for every body to be excellent to each other, instead of simply next to each other? If so, you should tell me and the rest of CoolPerthNights about it. Niceness is nice, and every human deserves it, even if they work for Optus.