Between calling and video chatting and texting and DM’ing, communication these days has never been more convenient. We can take or make a call anywhere — at the gym, on the train, in the grocery store, on a walk, in a waiting room — but should we?
Proper phone etiquette isn’t always obvious and rules can be tricky, so etiquette expert and “Awesome Etiquette” podcast host Lizzie Post provided clear-cut tips for best phone practices. Here’s what she had to share.
Don’t take the call if it’s not appropriate for everyone to hear.
Ask yourself: Do I need to take this call right now? Is this important or just convenient? Could my conversation be heard by anyone else? Will either the content or the noise of the conversation bother anyone else? Is there a way for me to place the call on hold, or wait to place the call until I’m in a more convenient location?
Use texts or photos when a call seems disruptive.
Pictures and texts can help you communicate when a video call would be disturbing to people around you. Think about when you’re trying to get someone’s opinion about an item you’re considering buying — send a few photos rather than taking a FaceTime call without headphones.
Don’t use speakerphone.
Do not use speakerphone for calls you make in public — use headphones. This is especially true for video calls or when watching to something on your device. This includes planes, trains, subway cars, shared rides, waiting rooms, standing in line, and at restaurants or other dining establishments. Also, try to avoid capturing others nearby in your shot — they didn’t ask to be on your call.
But if you’re outside, speaker is OK.
In parks or at beaches, it’s not uncommon to see folks using their phones for music. This is generally accepted as long as the content is OK for all ages and audiences. Content is important to keep track of. Violent, triggering or sexual content isn’t your best choice to listen to out loud.
When exercising outside, it can also be a safety issue to use your phone’s speakers and not headphones (and sometimes vice versa). Safety supersedes etiquette.
Let the person you’re talking to know you’re on speaker with others.
If you’re on speaker in an isolated setting, but you’re with another person or people, always announce to the person you’ve called or the person who called you that they are on speaker. “Hi! Just want to give you a heads up that I’m in the car with Colin and you’re on speakerphone.”
Leave your phone alone in a public restroom.
The privacy violation is just too much. Excuse yourself or put the call on hold/mute.
Give cashiers, clerks and others around you your full attention.
Never continue a call while you’re at the cash register. Give the clerk your undivided attention. If taking a call is absolutely necessary or if it’s an emergency, it’s OK to ask to take the call. “Do you mind if I call my mother back quickly? She’s been at the doctor’s.” But be prepared to keep the call short, and make sure you move far enough away so that you’re not heard or noticed.
Handle call mishaps with grace.
You’re going to experience things that turn a simple phone call into a frustrating moment: Calls are going to get dropped, weird echos will occur. Remember to blame the device and not the person.
When a call ends due to poor connection, it’s usually best to have the person who lost service reach back out once they gain it again. If you’re having trouble hearing someone, it’s OK to say so, but do so graciously and with an attitude of “whoopsy!” and not blame-sy.
Remember it can be true that sometimes a person is hearing you clearly but you cannot hear them, or vice versa. If it’s really bad, try again at a different time.
Leave a voicemail.
For those you don’t know, or are maybe reaching out to for the first time: Leave your name, number, a brief message, and then repeat your name and number. Having the number at the start and end of the message allows for the person listening to write it down and double check it without having to go back. And remember: We don’t all leave call-back numbers that are the same as the number that shows up on caller ID.
For those you are more familiar with: Choose your voicemail messages wisely. It’s not uncommon to receive a missed call plus a text message instead of a voicemail. You’ll know whether a voicemail or text is better based on who you’ve called and what you are trying to reach them about. If you do choose to text, start by letting the person know that your text is related to the phone call.
Turn your phone off for important conversations and moments.
You want to be present for these moments. If you’re using your phone as a camera, at least put it in airplane or Do Not Disturb mode.
Lizzie Post hosts the “Awesome Etiquette” podcast and is the co-president of the Emily Post Institute. She has authored several books, including “Emily Post’s Etiquette, The Centennial Edition” and “Higher Etiquette.”