Telephone Etiquette

  So way back in the olden days, when I was a little girl, I used to LOOOOVE to answer the phone.  “Hello Bontrager residence, Tonya speaking!” 

{Gotta love an 80’s perm, Avery just asked me why “Destiny” is wearing a wig?}

Scan_Pic0009 (2)

Anyhow, I guess I sound just like my mom, because I had to add “Tonya speaking”, or even as a second grader, these people would launch into a looooong story about what they needed before I could even sputter out the words,

“WAIT, you want my mom, hold on I will get her for you!”

  My parents talked to us about do’s and do not’s of phone etiquette.  And look, we even had this cute little book all about it. My mom just recently passed it on to my kiddos.  This book covers basics like don’t tell  people if you are home alone, use good manners, take messages for your mom etc.

PicMonkey Collage txt

   In addition to all these rules, we had a house rule that we didn’t answer the phone during supper.  This was back in the 1980’s, and guess what, we didn’t even have an answering machine to record that missed call. OR caller ID to know who we missed! 



                                 HOW DID WE STAND IT?!?!?!?!?

Unheard of now, right?  Funny how things change. 

  But I love what that taught me….family supper is more important than that phone call, and that person would call back later.  We have chosen to keep this rule at our house, and very very rarely, do we answer during a meal.

  Now days it seems everyone can be reached anytime via home phone, cell phone or messaging.  If we can’t get them one way, we try the other two.  I think with the good of that instant gratification, comes some bad……

  It’s like we think we owe those people an immediate hello, even if we are in the middle of a bedtime story, or family time. 

Honestly?  We don’t!

If family comes first, then it’s ok to let it go to voice mail, and call them back after the kids are in bed!  If you are reading a book, and you are at a good part, fine! Don’t answer! You can call back later.  Be empowered, you control the phone, it doesn’t control your life!

  I think in this day and age, of constant access to various forms of communication, we need some written rules about it.  So I decided to write Telephone Etiquette 101.

Rule #1:  No Being On Your Phone At The Park.


That was in honor of all of those people who misunderstood the point of Dear Mom On the iPhone!  🙂  If you go to the park to have a break from your kids, be my guest!  But please, don’t forget to put it down and go running up to them for a surprise “YOUR IT!” attack, with a fun game of tag ensuing now and then, either.

iPhone, Texting and Cell Phone Etiquette 101

1)  Have “Phone Free Zones” In Your Home.
  Like at the dinner table, or your bedroom.  Have those places be ‘sacred’. A place where you connect with your family and spouse, not the world, or the world-wide web.

  If that doesn’t appeal to you, then choose “Phone Free Times” like no phones during family game night, during your bedtime routine with the kids, or devotions with your spouse.  The phone needs to be out of arms reach, preferably in another room, so that text or call will not be begging for your attention.

  I have heard a lot of people say when they enter the house, they and their children with cell phones, are expected to park them on a docking station in the mud room until the next morning.  No phones in the evening and no phones up in bedrooms!  LOVE that idea!

2) Have “Phone Free Zones” Outside Your Home
  Like date night.  Or a ball game.

   Give your spouse 100% of your attention, or root on your child and his team with your whole heart.  Be there.  Be ALL there, not surfing the web, or scrolling through Facebook!  Put your phone on silent and give the ones you love your full attention. 

   What about when we see people’s play by plays of their date night on Facebook, plus lots of other comments along the way on other’s posts?  Facebook is so distracting!  Try to just put the phone away, and enjoy your spouse!  Face to face, eye to eye grown up time.  Holding hands and having fun!!!!!  You can post your great time later, after you get home!  {If you still want to.} Winking smile

3) Little Pitchers Have Big Ears
  WAAAY too many grown up conversations happen with little ears in the backseat of the car listening.  Be aware of your surroundings, both in the car, at the store, and in your home.  Your children are listening, heck, grown up people are listening!  Just because you can bring your cell phone into a vehicle, restaurant or store, does not mean your personal life needs to come, too.  Go excuse yourself, or wait for another time to have your conversation.

4) Speaker Phone Is For When You Are Alone
I know there is fear in getting brain damage by being on your cell too much, but people, making us all listen to BOTH SIDES of your LOUD conversation on speaker phone, is NOT the answer. 

5) Get Off the Phone
  I love to talk to my kids about their day, or what we are seeing as we drive.  There is nothing better than talking to your captive audience, your kids!  You will be SHOCKED how much they have to say, when there is nowhere to run off to.  Smile at them in the rear view mirror and ask about their days. Make this a special tradition at the end of a school day. You will open up lines of communication for years to come.

  I try not to make this a habit, but there are some days that I have several phone calls to be made, so the obvious choice is while in the car, or waiting in car pick up lines, which I do multiple times a day!!!  The kids get to listen to an Adventure in Odyssey CD, and I get 14 calls made for the upcoming Bake Sale. It’s a win-win.
HOWEVER, when I enter the school, I want to do better about being off my phone. I want to show respect to the teachers and parents that I am coming in contact with.  And, if they need to talk to me about my student, I will be available.

This also applies when checking out at a store. You may be the only ‘Jesus’ that clerk comes in contact with that day. Your “Good Afternoon, How are you doing today?” might be the nicest words they hear all day.  If we are to be Jesus’ hands and feet, then we better not always be on our phones!

6) Leave It In The Car
I know there are people on call, or times when a babysitter is at home with little ones, or a loved one is dying, or you are waiting for word on some big deal at work, I get it. But be FREE.  Don’t be chained to your phone any longer.  Sometimes, it really is ok, to just leave it in the car.  You might be surprised how much you enjoy that freedom.

7) Multi-Tasking Is Disrespectful
  Texting is quiet, I get that. But it is very disrespectful to look down during a face to face conversation, to answer a text.  Have you ever watched that other person, the one that was visiting with you and sharing their heart?  Their words slow down, their eyes dart back and forth between you and your phone.  They aren’t saying it, but they are waiting for your full attention before continuing.  It is very accepted by culture today, but I say it feels disrespectful!

  If this was “real life” and 2 people were trying to talk to you at once, would you not tell one of them to hold on a minute?  You sure wouldn’t carry on two conversations at once!  Oh, it happens in real life sometimes, but it’s awkward and un-productive for everyone! 

8) Some Conversations Are Better Spoken
  Save texting for those quick, “I am going to be late,” “I miss you,” “Praying for you today,” messages.
If you have 7 paragraphs to say, then use your phone the “old school way” and actually call your friend.  Real time talking with real-time emotion.

9) Talk To Your Kids About The Power They Have At Their Fingertips
If you decide to get your teen or preteen a Smart Phone, then please have some rules in place. Be ready to take the phone away when those rules are broken.
Talk to them about the beauty of real voices with real emotions on the other end of the phone line. Teach them not to send sexy pictures or inappropriate words just because they are hiding behind a screen. And please, don’t allow your child free rein to the web without some sort of filter or rule system in place. We want our children to succeed and grow up to respectable adults. Filling their mind with garbage at an early age, will only create them heartache in the long run.

10) The Movie Theatre Is Dark, But Your Phone Screen IS NOT
Listen, you probably just paid around $20 to get you and your date into the movies. I know it seems dark and private and un-disruptive to quickly check your emails, but guess what?  Even though the theater is dark, your phone screen is NOT.
Watch the movie!  Shut your phone off and be present.  If you can’t go two hours without doing a “drive by” on your phone, Facebook or Email, it’s time for a phone DETOX.

Bonus Tip:  If Your Hand Maintains Cell Phone Shape After You Set It Down, You Have A Serious Problem. {tee hee}  🙂

Have some more iPhone, Texting or Cell Phone “rules”?  Feel free to add them in the comments section.

Hugs, T

More about this subject here.


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24 thoughts on “Telephone Etiquette

  1. I love this post! I was raised the same way but I have noticed how my mother (76 yrs) is chained to her cell phone these days. I have asked her to not answer it when we are together. She has a really hard time with this. What’s funny is that she complains when my brother’s wife and daughters text while in her presence. People need to remember it goes both ways.
    BTW, to comment on rule #4, I can’t tell you how many times service people thank me for looking them in the eye and asking them how they are today. We need to connect (face to face) with others everyday!

  2. I have made such huge changes in my life with my iPhone since Christmas and I can already see the changes in my family! I’m still working on my husband. He still gets so irritated when I point out to him that he is ignoring us and playing on his phone. He’s working on it but just not at my speed! =)
    The phone goes down when I come in the door from work. Facebook isn’t important. My family time is important. =) Thanks T

  3. Wow! Tonya, thank you for this post. God knew I needed it. I’m one of those that as soon as the phone rings or text comes in I feel like I MUST answer or else the person will feel ignored. I hate that I’ve come this attached. It’s a horrible feeling. Thank you for writing this. I’m def going to take every word to heart!!!

  4. Lots of wisdom here, Tonya. I turn my phone off and my kids are like….you know you can leave that on all the time…..okay. Another flash from the past…..did you know that stores used to be closed on Sundays and we actually managed to get through a whole day without going to a store. Imagine that!

  5. I am extremely disturbed to learn that you make phone calls while driving. This is so dangerous and not only puts your children’s lives at risk but all the people around you. It may not be the law yet, but the right thing to do is stay off the phone while you are driving. Driving deserves 100% of your attention. My children are precious cargo and I don’t want a person on a cell phone to kill them because they thought that was the best place to answer all their calls. Do it at nap time! Otherwise, even though it does sound preachy, I think this is all good advice.

  6. I have to agree with Granny, my family (all 3 grown kids included) have signed Oprah’s oath to not use a cell phone while driving, no texting (omg, why would you???) and no calling or answering the phone, no reading a text either. So dangerous, it is called distracted driving & is illeagal in many of the major towns in my state of Montana. I feel very strongly about this one. It takes a second of taking your eyes off the road to grab your phone to swerve into the other lane. Sorry to be preachy 🙂

  7. I actually needed this today. I occasionally forget to take my cell phone with me when I leave the house, and I almost actually go into phone withdrawal. Have actually turned around and come back to the house to get it–if I’m not too far from home.

    I have another telephone etiquette rule–related to cell phones. If you are actually talking to someone on the phone, do not text whle doing so. It is very distracting not to mention rude because the party you are speaking with can hear the text clicks.

  8. While walking into the grocery store today I saw three people walk by an elderly woman who was obviously having trouble with her shopping cart. Two were texting and one was on his cell phone. I stopped and asked if I could help her, and the next thing you know two other peoople stopped to help, too. She was so appreciative! I couldn’t help but think that, no matter what those three were hearing or reading, I was blessed to have the best conversation of all today!

  9. I don’t have a cell phone .. I am thinking maybe I am lucky Thank God!!. Because I am actually experiencing life. But I do love caller id on the house phone because I don’t have to answer unless it’s family (there are special ring tones for them) you never know if it may be an emergency. Other things can wait.

  10. I don’t see a problem with talking on the phone while driving if using some sort of hands-free device. It isn’t any more distracting than having a conversation with a passenger. Bluetooth is convenient and allows the driver to be focused on driving. I find it amusing that people think phone conversations using hands-free technology are worse than regular conversations. Do you not talk to anyone while you drive then?
    As for texting- I might check or reply when stopped at a light, but if the light changes it goes down again until I’m stopped again. I won’t look at a screen while my car is moving. Divided attention and occupied hands are dangerous, and predictive text technology isn’t that good yet. Even with technology like talk-to-text, which I still distrust, texting and active driving don’t mix. I always have to fix something, so I may as well not have it.

    • Well until they make talking to your passengers illegal because it is unsafe…just saying. There must be a reason that so many states are making talking on the phone illegal

    • I completely agree, right up until I read this. And then I remembered those times when I’d be chatting away in the car, and Dad would say something like, “Look how busy this intersection is. Stop talking until I’m through this bit, please.” And he’s the safest, most responsible driver I know. Just a thought: the people in the car with you can see when your attention is required, and decided to pause the conversation for the moment. The person on the other end of the phone doesn’t have this info.

      Just a thought. Like I said, I completely agreed until I read that and the counter-argument occurred to me!

  11. I very much agree with you. We need to PUT DOWN our phones and get in with real life and moments. I agree with if its an emergency, or a deadline you have to take the call, but other than that, LIVE LIFE! 🙂

  12. I was in a school lunchroom today and saw a dad eating lunch with his son…. but was on the phone:( Not the first time I have observed this in the cafeteria unfortunately. Why go there to eat a special lunch if you are going to be on the phone??? Put it DOWN! Don’t understand parents!

  13. Tonya, You are so right with all of this post! Hubby always says that he does not understand why talking on your cell phone while driving is so bad. You are totally paying attention to the road hands on the wheel. Texting is a totally different story! You are NOT paying attention to anything around you!
    I do not have any form of cell phone. I am home most all the time. I answer the phone here for the buisness. Somedays I do wish that I could screen the calls and only answer the ones I want to talk with. But… alas that is not good for the business!:) But I do have to say I love caller ID for those callers that just keep calling and you don’t want to talk with them!:) I do screen those calls.
    I totally agree with you on texting while talking with someone else! I HATE it. I feel sooo unimportant to them when they do that! I mean if you really have to answer that person excuse yourself and answer! But, DON’T do it in front of the person you are talking with.
    Thank you so much for feeling the LORD pushing you to post what HE wants you to post. Believe me I know that this was not a post you would just post because you wanted to step on toes! Technology is GREATin its place but it is really taking over our lives! Who would have thought back 15 20 years ago when all this started coming out how powerful it would be. It really is life consuming if you let it be! And I knw that for us this past year haveing the web right at your fingertips was NOT a good this at all! When you are all along those so called NEEDS are strong and “no one is watching” so you think! We would throw all of it out if it comes to it! If it makes you turn from your family or most of all the LORD! It would be hard to be without but I would totally save my family over saving my computer/cell phone!
    Hugs and love are being sent to you,

  14. Pingback: Dear Mom On The iPhone, |

  15. I think that the old school way is the way it should be today. Kids are too dependent on the cell phone. Today my daugher, age 14 forgot her lock code pattern and after several attempts was locked out of her phone. They now want her gmail info to unlock her phone. She can’t remember the password and closed the account linked to it as a back up. I called straighttalk and they tried to walk me through a factory reset but it didn’t work. They transfered me to a different tech support person who explained everything on the phone will be lost and my daughter lost her mind. She chose to keep trying to remember the gmail password rather than reset the phond. I do believe she would let them cut off an arm rather than take her phone away. It is getting out of hand.

  16. Here is one thing I do. As a business owner, I have owned my own photography studio for 3 years now. In the beginning I had a cell phone and not a house phone (who has those anymore lol) anyways, I would give my clients my cell number. No biggie right? Well it became an issue when they would call me at 9pm and wake the baby I was nursing and trying to get to sleep. Or when they would not leave a voicemail but instead just call back 3x in a row (yes this happened). But the worst thing I noticed was many were not calling at all, they were texting. Okay so that might be normal now days but I wanted to run my business on a more PERSONAL level. I dont talk about sessions, pricing, anything through facebook messages or texting anymore. I used to, but I changed it to this and it changed and freed me up so much. 1. I bought a cheap phone from walmart. You know a regular plug in the wall phone with caller id and all that. And put it on my desk in my office.
    2. I bought a vonage plan and phone number for it.
    3. I changed my business cards, listings, and everywhere else to that number only.
    4. I set it up with a professional voicemail that states my business name of course,office hours, and that I will return any voicemails within 24 hours of the next business day.
    5. I then bought a new cell phone, changed my number and it is my private phone.

    What this did for my business and for my life.

    It freed me from the late night phone calls. It freed me from the need to respond to late night texts, or have whole texting conversations to discuss session details. Now I speak directly and personally to my clients on the telephone to set up consultations, chat, ext. And it just in general gave control back to me over when my family time is and when my business times are.
    When its the end of my business day I turn the Do not disturb option on via and the options from my computer. so the phone in the office does not even ring, it goes straight to the voicemail.
    I do not ever give out my private cell phone number to clients (with the exception of set birth documentary clients that are expecting and need to be able to reach me any time of the day or night)

    So, thats what I did and it is professional, has managed well, went over great with clients, and I think having the two lines not only benefits myself, but my clients or prospects as well. It is more professional to call and get a business greeting than it is to call and listen to my ‘please enjoy this music while you wait for your party to answer’ then get my personal ‘hey this is tara you know what to do” message lol. 🙂 hope this helps someone! oh btw vonage is like 30 bucks a month! a great price to pay for this added benefit to my business, and its a tax deduction 100% since it is only a business line!

  17. Maybe preaching to the choir here, but as a former high school and junior high teacher I have to say both restrict and teach your kids how to use cell phones. Please don’t send them to school, church, or many other important events. Please. I have not met ONE teenager able to withstand the temptation 100% of the time. Straight-A Responsible Christian Sweethearts can’t handle it. They “just check it really quick” (a lot) at best. At worst, it’s a temption to cheat, be involved in innappropriate conversations/situations -bullying, sexting, pornography, etc…even if they aren’t the instigators stuff spreads. Even if the worst case scenario isn’t true -my lesson plans are no match for quick Facebook updates they don’t even have to push a button for- they just update on the screen. I give them something “boring?” I’ve learned to watch kids for cell phone activity as soon they need to buckle down and work on something. I’m not saying that consequenses don’t work for some-but kids are able to keep the phone in a sweatshirt pocket and peek even in the most strict classroom. I’ve seen kids pull them out in church during a message, I’ve had parents call their kids to ASK WHAT THEY WANTED FOR LUNCH during my class time. I know total restriction isn’t the answer, they need to be able to use a phone sometime realistically. Just don’t underestimate the distraction and temptation they pose.

  18. OK, I’m just going to say it!
    I DO NOT and WILL NOT own a cellphone/smartphone, I have NO need for one!
    So I did have one for a couple years in the early 00’s, but it was a hassle and a headache I felt I no longer needed and got rid of!
    I also did not and do not ever do any of that stupidly gay “texting”!
    I find it faster and easier to just actually CALL someone whom I wish to SPEAK with!
    It takes 5 seconds to call and say “Hey! do you wanna go out tonight?”
    It takes me about 2 minutes of wasted time to type that! lol

    I also would never talk on a phone while driving and I really do want to punch each and every moron who does and have gotten into a few altercations with phone using idiotic drivers!
    You are NOT all that important, neither is your stupid phone convo! PULL OVER or HANG UP and talk later when you are NOT driving!

    As far as phone etiquette goes;
    Way back when I was a kid, of around 6 years old, my now ex step-dad scolded me for at least 30 mins for “improperly answering the phone, but than taught me how to answer the phone properly and politely, after I picked it and just said “hi, who’s this and who do you want to speak to?”.
    Guess that wasn’t Mrs. Netiquette or conformist enough for the old man’s neurotic taste/habits?!
    Plus, it was mostly due to the fact that he ran both a family owned plumbing biz with his 3 brothers and he was also a professional union pianist who would have those jobs coming in daily as well.
    Needless to say our phone was always ringing off the wall with customers, relatives, friends, or those people wanting to hire the old man to play at some function/event or sometimes even for a studio session or live show for some well known acts to fill in when their regular guy/member couldn’t be there.

    What used to floor me was whenever I would call or was over this one childhood friends house and their phone would ring, no matter which family member would answer it, the Dad/Mom/any of the 6 kids, they would all answer it the same two or three classless ways, which always made MY skin crawl, and is what led me to figure out that, well, they really we’re all just white trash losers!
    Here’s how they would pick it up;
    {ring ring-ring ring}
    “Yeah!?, whaddaya want!?!”,
    or their “classic” plain old,
    “Who is it?!”,
    or the combo of
    “Who’s this? Whaddaya want?”
    And I’m not kidding!
    No “Hello”,
    No “Whom am I speaking with?”,
    No Hi, how can I help you?”
    It was no wonder that they were all illiterates on welfare, none in their house ever finished any type of high school, beyond maybe the eighth grade, at best, and none of them ever held a REAL job for more than a day/week/month at best!
    And they would come to my house and make fun of me and MY family, because my house would have REAL brands of food in it!
    Here’s how one convo in my kitchen with three of the four brothers and myself went one time, back when we we’re all around age 14 or so and my folks we’re all out for the day and left us hanging at the house;

    “Oh sh*t!, bro, look at this!, they buy “Heinz” ketchup and “Guldens” mustard and they even have “Hellmanns” mayonayse and REAL “Coca-Cola”!!, that stuff’s so expensive!”

    (Maybe, but hey, we liked the GOOD edible ketchup and other good condiments, not the no-name bottle of pissy’ tomato juice they had at their awful Bar-B-Q’s, and for the extra .10cents, the GOOD stuff was worth it!!)
    They even made fun that we had boxes of the real “Frosted flakes” and “Fruit loops” while they had the “No-Frills” knock-off’s in the plain white boxes or bags!

    And yes, there was a big difference in the taste and overall quality!

    I tried to help them learn how to be better people and do better things for themselves over the next year or so, but later realized that I was just completely wasting MY time and soon after I just stopped associating with that entire pack of trash altogether!

    Instead of bashing my family and I daily for working hard and being able to afford real food and for being able to go on nice vacations and have nice cars and trucks, they should have all learned some etiquette, politeness and gotten themselves some formal education and REAL JOBS and a car! Their parents NEVER owned a single car in their lives!
    Last I saw of any of that pack of trash I had ran into the one br who had anything going for himself, he informed me that their pos dad split, the mom died due to being so morbidly obese, the only sister went and had like six kids by at least five dudes, who none of were white, one bro was hooked on heroin and homeless, another was a massive alkie and the other was homeless and just aimlessly wandering round the old neighborhood like a bum!

    Meanwhile I retired two year ago and thoroughly enjoy my wife, our now grown children, our paid off home, my cars, bikes, trucks and our bi-weekend cookouts with REAL brand foods and GOOD friends and family!

    See what being polite, charming, skilled and talented gets you?

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