8 Telephone Etiquette Tips

Whether at work, at home, or on your mobile phone, here are 8 solid telephone etiquette tips everyone should be displaying at all times.

1. Always identify yourself at the beginning of all calls.

A) When in the office, always answer a telephone by saying: “Hello/Good Morning, Accounting Department, Syndi Seid speaking.”

B) From a cell phone, either simply say Hello, or state your name, Hello, Syndi Seid here.  Do not answer by using words such as “yeah” or “yes.”

C) When placing a call, always state your name along with the name of the person you are calling. Example: “Hello, my name is John Doe from XYZ Corporation.  May I please speak with Ms. Jane Smith?”

2. Be sensitive to the tone of your voice.  Do not sound overly anxious, aggressive or pushy. It is important your tone conveys authority and confidence.  Do not lean back in your chair when speaking on the telephone.

Tip: Sit up in your chair or stand during the conversation. When at home, use a personal tape recorder to privately record your own conversations.  You will then hear how your sound to others.

3. Think through exactly what you plan to say and discuss BEFORE you place a call.

Tip:  Jot down the items you want to discuss and questions you want answered.  In other words, anticipate and expect you will be placed into a voicemail system; plan your message to be as direct and specific as possible, asking the person to respond to specific alternatives or questions.  Do not say, “Hello, it’s Syndi, call me back.”  At least state the subject about which you want the person to call you back about.

4. Do not allow interruptions to occur during conversations. Do not carry on side conversations with other people around you.  The person on the telephone takes precedence over someone who happens to walk in your office or passes by while you are on the phone.

Tip: If you must interrupt the conversation, say to the person, “Please excuse me for a moment I’ll be right back.”  And when you return, say, “Thank you for holding.”

5. Especially when leaving messages, speak clearly and slowly. Do not use broken phrases, slang or idioms. Always, always leave your return telephone number as part of your message, including the area code . . . and S-L-O-W-L-Y, including REPEATING your telephone number at the end of your message.

Tip: Practice leaving your number, by saying it aloud to yourself as slow as you have heard an informational operator say it.

6. Build the habit of always turning off your cell phone ringer when entering a meeting, restaurant, theater, training class, or other place where the purpose of your visit would be interrupted or others would be disturbed by hearing your cell phone ring.

Tip: If you are expecting an important call, inform the caller you will be in a meeting during certain times and state you will monitor your message indicator for when it illuminates you will excuse yourself to leave the meeting and return the call.

7. Always speak into the telephone receiver with an even and low tone of voice.  Especially when speaking on a cell phone out in public, be sure to monitor how loud you may be.

Tip: Move the phone ear piece just slightly away from your ear and listen to yourself speaking. Discover whether you are speaking too loudly or too quietly for the other person to hear you.

8. Do not allow yourself to be distracted by other activities while speaking on the telephone, such as rustling papers, chewing and eating, working on the computer, or speaking with someone else.  Most importantly, do not use a hand held cell phone while driving. Get a headset or speaker phone for the car.

Tip: Always treat every caller with the utmost courtesy and respect by giving him/her your undivided attention.

Question:  What other items do you have to add to this list?  Do let us hear from you by locating this article at www.AdvancedEtiquette.com/blog.  You may also reach us at www.AdvancedEtiquette.com.  If you enjoyed this article and want more, subscribe to our “Etiquette Tip of the Month” newsletter—at no charge—filled with great monthly tips on all sorts of topics from international business and social etiquette and protocol to everyday life subjects.  It will be great to have you as a member of our happy family of subscribers at www.AdvancedEtiquette.com/subscribe.

Happy Practicing!

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49 Responses to “8 Telephone Etiquette Tips”

  1. Rahlyns says:

    When ending a call, who is responsible for saying “goodbye”? The caller? The person trying to end the call? Is there a rule?

  2. Syndi Seid says:

    Dear Rahlyns: There is not rule as to who is responsible to say Good-bye first. It’s from whomever wants to end the call first. The important matter is you do say good-bye, versus simply hanging up on the person. Thanks for the question.

  3. mARGARET says:

    when receiving a call at home or at work, and it is for someone else, is it not rude to ask who is calling if that person has not specifically told you to ask who is calling.

  4. Teresa says:

    I’ve found that the best wayt o end a call is to ask, “Is there anything else I can do for you today?” or “I’m so glad I could help, is there anything else?” or “Thanks so much for calling us today, is there anything else?” When they say No, you say, “Terrific, have a great day”. i wait for about 3 seconds for them to respond then I disconnect the call if they don’t. I find most callers know that I’m wrapping up the conversation and they either quickly identify other business or they say goodbye.

  5. thinh says:

    when the caller’s attitude is not friendly, what should we do?

  6. Shweta says:

    If anyone talks rudely or angrily on the phone, how to answer him or her? Can you please guide me??

  7. Marika says:


    I have a questiona about taking a phone call. I’m not a native English speaker and I have never actually lived in an English-speaking country, so I have probably a silly question, but it has been bothering me for a long time.

    I have this Englsih textbook that teaches to answer phone calls with reciting your phone number. I’ve never actually even seen it in films. Are there any instances that it is actually done? Or is it simply a very old-fashioned way? Though the textbook is not that old, I think it was published somewhere around the turn of the century.

    I would very much appreciate if you could clarify it a bit.
    Thank you.

  8. David Streiff says:

    When handing the phone to another person should you tell than who is calling ?

  9. jesshorwitz says:

    Normally I don’t read post on blogs, but I would like to say that this write-up very compelled me to check out and do so! Your writing taste has been amazed me. Thank you, quite nice article.

  10. Syndi Seid says:

    Dear David: Yes, it is always nice when answering the telephone for someone else to ask: “May I say who’s calling?” “Who may I say is calling?”
    Happy Practicing!

  11. Syndi Seid says:

    Dear Shweta: Whenever speaks rudely or angrily on the phone, simply say: “John (their name), would you please tone down the tone of your voice. It’s bothering me that you are sounding most rude and/or angry. If this tone persists I will have to hang up. I understand you may be upset (etc.), yet I would prefer if we can discuss this matter more calmly as friends (if this is the case… or whatever, as colleagues, etc.). If this persists and this is in the workplace, report it to your supervisor. If this is a personal friend, then be firm in saying this is not how you prefer having friends who speak in this tone and manner. If you want to be more specific for help, contact us directly at info@AdvancedEtiquette.com. Good luck!

  12. Syndi Seid says:

    Thinh: When a caller’s attitude is not friendly, you should politely, yet firming tell the caller you will be hang up if this attitude and tone persists. There is no need to prolong the agony.

  13. Syndi Seid says:

    Dear Marika: It is rare anyone would answer a personal telephone by reciting their phone number. However, I have heard it used by companies/businesses who do not prefer using a business name, yet wish to have the caller know they have reached the number intended.

    In today’s uncertainties, for personal phones it is recommended to simply say, Hello!, or whatever the appropriate equivalent is in various languages.

    There was also another old-fashioned style of saying “Hello, Smith residence.” Even this in today’s times is not preferred.

    You are correct, the textbook you were reading is most curious. Hope this helps. Syndi.

  14. Marie says:

    People tend to leave long messages on my answering service at home. What is the etiquette regarding the length of messages left on an answering machine?
    With thanks, Marie

  15. Syndi Seid says:

    Dear Marie: I know how you feel about this. I don’t like long messages either. Perhaps in your greeting you can state something to the effect: “At the sound of the tone, please leave a quick 30 second message simply stating your name, telephone number and the subject of your call and I will return your call as soon as possible.” The other alternative is to just accept that certain people will always ramble on and on and be grateful for having callers. Good luck!

  16. Syndi Seid says:

    Margaret: First of all, a caller should identify him/herself when calling. It is not rude to ask who is calling if you say it in a nice way. To ask “Who’s calling, please” does sound like you are screening the call. The way I’ve memorized is to say, “May I tell him/her who’s calling? It’s only natural a person will want to know who is calling them.

  17. Sylvia says:

    Hi Syndi, I love how you reply to the questions individually. thank you for your assistance

  18. Sylvia says:

    Hi Syndi, I love how you respond to every query individually. Thank you for your assistance.

  19. Ralph says:

    In a work environment are janitors/cleaners allowed to pick company calls when no one is around?

  20. Akki says:

    1. At times i have to answer the customer calls pertaining to the complaints they have; being in a haste they occasionally behave immature & tend to speak sarcastically. There had been 1 instance when i lost my cool & back fired @ the annoying fellow. How will you suggest to handle such lot of people who are reluctant to hear you & disrespect the receiver?

    2. Is it okay to use short messages in a formal text exchange?

  21. Syndi Seid says:

    Akki: Thanks for your post. Being a person who must listen to customer complaints is probably one of the worst jobs a person can have. It requires a person to hear lots of negativity on a regular basis. I can’t think of anyone who “enjoys” this, yet for those in this position, appropriate skills must be learned to handle not only the callers, but also yourself in terms of your own well-being.

    Best suggestions: a) Seek out online articles, books, and courses on customer service and handling customer complaints. There is a skill required to remain calm on your end and to defuse rude callers. b) Email me at Info@AdvancedEtiquette.com and I will send you two articles I have on handling customer relations and complaints. Regrettably blogs do not allow for PDF attachments.

    Regarding the 2nd question, my thinking is there is little difference between a formal and informal text, except for choosing to spell out all words and phrases. The nature of texts are to be quick message exchanges, unlike emails which I suppose could be be considered more formal. In business, texts are only to be used for quick conversations about something requiring immediate attention… such as being late to a meeting, confirming a location. It is not the place to send a contract. Good luck!

  22. Syndi Seid says:

    Ralph: I am assuming you are speaking about janitors answering calls belonging to the client’s office, perhaps late at night when no one else is around. The answer is absolutely not. A janitor/cleaner is typically not part of the daily workforce of that business. Therefore, the janitor has no business answering another person’s telephone.

  23. Andy says:

    Great Article ! Good Study For My Company’s Implementation Of Proper Phone Etiquette

  24. Evelyn Sevilla says:

    what is the allowable / maximum ring before someone has to answer / pick up the phone? is there a rule for that?

  25. Syndi Seid says:

    Evelyn: There is a slight difference between home and business. A general rule for both is to best answer calls within the first three rings. Most systems go into voicemail by the 4th ring which depending on our voicemail system may not allow you to interrupt the answer system to take the call. Case in point I have a friend who owns a large mansion. He tells everyone to never hang up until after the 8th ring and to please always leave a message, because it may be he just couldn’t get to the phone any sooner.

  26. Syndi Seid says:

    Andy: Thank you… it is a hot topic everywhere! Let me know what other items should be included if we were to expand the article???

  27. Pat says:

    My mother receives multiple calls from her friends and family. I speak with her every day, sometimes more than once – sometimes she calls me (most often) and sometimes I call her. Sometimes, when I am speaking with her, she gets another call, and then tells me that it’s so-and-so and she will call me back. I don’t mind if we’ve been on the phone for a while, or if the other caller is calling from a cell phone on the go. But today, for example, a few minutes after I called my mother, she got another call, from her brother. And she said to me: Pat, it’s so and so. I’ll call you back. I felt angry. We hadn’t spoken for more than three minutes. Her brother is calling from another state, but so am I. Please let me know what the correct phone etiquette is for her situation. By the way, my mother’s brother is retired, can talk on the phone at any time, and he speaks with my mother fairly frequently (it’s not like she never hears from him). Thank you.

  28. Syndi Seid says:

    Dear Pat: Thank you for the inquiry. After reading your submission a couple of times, my best response is: A) You are blessed to be able to speak with your Mom on a daily basis and sometimes several times in a day, even when she has to call you back. B) Reality is your Mom has full choice to speak with whomever she wants, when she wants, and it has no reflection on her not caring about you in any way. C) Regardless of being retired a person can be most busy in their life. As I see this, for whatever reason, that day your Mom did choose to speak with her brother first, in lieu of having to call him back instead of you. If you are still upset over this matter, you should “nicely” ask your Mom why she took his call first instead of calling him back, over you. This should not be an issue that continues to fester. However, whatever her response, you should accept it and let this matter go. There may be reasons or situations with which you are unaware that caused her to take his call first… or maybe nothing… beyond a spare-of-the-moment choice with no reason. In the greater scheme of things, what’s important is not to let this be something that harms your good relationship with your Mom. Good luck!

  29. DAVE says:

    I have a few rules which include phone calls. Visiting is ok before 5 PM, after 5 call before visiting, and do not call after 8pm unless it is an emergency. Is this unreasonable? Some people look at me like I have 3 heads when I tell them this.

  30. Jacob Johns says:

    I have another question that is not addressed in the discussions. I get lot of telemarketing calls. I am not at all interested in most of those calls. Many of them will not identify themselves; they will not stop to listen. I am not happy to reveal my name to many. What will be the proper way of answering those calls.

  31. Max says:

    I was taught in school that the person who calls is the one to end the conversation. That was before voicemail. Now MY question is if someone calls you and leaves a message for you to call them back, NOW who ends the call first?

  32. Shimon says:

    What do you do if a person often says “i will have to phone you back” and you know he means that he will not phone you back but will only “have to”, and that is his way of politely telling you to start looking for him all over again?
    And there are others who actually say “I’ll call you back”, and never do, unless they feel they are being tested. Is there an immeadiate and effective way of saying that since you don’t believe them, you don’t wish to let them off right now?

    Also, if a person regularly says during a phone call, please wait a minute, then takes another call sometimes for even 3 minutes or longer, and when he comes back says “ok so I’ll say good bye for now”, how can you bring it to his attention that you are very hurt and injured by this practice, if you never get the opportunity to do so? Or how can you stop him doing it in the future, if you need him more than he needs you, and you are meant to be friends.

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  34. SUZANNE BLACK says:

    Re: MOTHER’S PHONE CALLS. I am a 76 year old retired woman with grown children. Rude is rude no matter what your age. I suggest that instead of confronting her mother head on that whenever the mother pulls this, “I’ll call you back” that the daughter says to her, “I’m on my way out, we’ll touch bases tomorrow.” Mother doesn’t have to respond immediately to anyone who is calling in while daughter is on the phone unless it’s the doctor’s office or something equally important. Let the caller leave a voice message or call back later. Mother will get the message that daughter isn’t going to be at her beck and call. It’s only common courtesy to complete the conversation with the original caller.

  35. Callum says:

    I’m impressed, I have to admit. Seldom do I encounter a blog that’s both equally educative and entertaining, and let me tell you, you have hit the nail on the head.

    The issue is something not enough men and women are speaking intelligently about. Now i’m very happy I came across this during my search for something regarding this.

  36. janelle says:

    I have just started a new job and the phones are a very important factor of the job. I took computer classes in high school and I am very good with them but I was never really taught correctly on how to handle phone calls or let alone answer phones. I have been here for almost a month and I am still very nervous on answering the phones. I have no choice but to do so if I want to keep my job and I would love to do so because I love my job. But like I said it is a very important part of the job. But my question to you is how do I get over my nervousness of answering the phones and handling the calls. I don’t really even answer my own cell phone or talk on them. I’m more of a texter. So if you could please give me a few pointers that would be wonderful. thanks

  37. Syndi Seid says:

    Janelle: One of the best ways I know to get over being nervous on the telephone is to write out specific scripts to memorize and use for all calls. Standard phrases such as: Hello/Good Morning/Afternoon, XYZ Company, Janelle (last name) speaking; How may I direct your call?; May I tell him who is calling? John Doe isn’t in right now, May I take a message for him? May I tell him what this call is about? The more you understand handling incoming calls is generally most repetitive. The more you create the scripts the more comfortable you will become in answering calls. Please call me by telephone if you want more help. I’d enjoy hearing from you.

  38. Syndi Seid says:

    Shimon: The two situations are regrettably most common. The best way to handle the first situation is when the person says “I will have to phone you back” or “I’ll call you back” is to first say: Thanks!(meaning you are accepting his statement about calling you back). Then ask: Will you please tell me approximately when I might expect your call back? Obviously when the person doesn’t call you back within a reasonable period thereafter, you will have reason to mention the lack of return call. Never accuse someone without knowing what factually may have happened. Instead, ask: Gosh, was there as reason I didn’t hear back from you when you said you would be called back?

    Regarding being put on a long hold, remember the date and time you were placed on the long hold so when you are on another call with the person, you can say: Oh, by the way, if during this call you must put me on a long hold… like on X date for about 3 minutes, I thought I would let you know if you must continue the other call more than a minutes or so, I will hang up you can call me back when you are finished with the other call. I understand important calls may come up, yet I trust you also understand it is unproductive for me to remain on hold for such a long time. NOTE: The key is never to use an angry or accusatory tone of voice. Rather, remain neutral in your comments as though it were just a matter of being cordial and factual. I hope this helps. Good luck and let me know if these tips helps.

  39. Syndi Seid says:

    Max: To go by your standards, I think the original caller still has precedence to end the “return” call, because all you did was call back to connect about the original matter.

    Beyond this, I believe either person has the right to end a telephone conversation. It’s more a matter of “how you do it” versus what you do. The main consideration is when you are the person being called and want to end the conversation, you say it in a cordial way, perhaps saying: Please forgive me, but I must end this call now. Do we need to schedule another call to continue this conversation further? By doing this you acknowledge the other person initiating the call and must end it perhaps before the caller is finished.

  40. Syndi Seid says:

    Jacob Johns: I understand how you feel. I dislike most telemarketers as well. For me, I am adamant about learning who is calling before revealing any information about myself. When they do not listen or reply properly, I will firmly ask to be placed on their “do not call” list and tell them I will be hanging up. I further keep a log of spam calls (thanks to caller I.D.). If they repeatedly call, I advise them the next call will be reported for disciplinary action, as provided by law. I try hard to respect what they do, yet when they do not treat me with respect in return, I have been forced to hang up on someone. Lately I have been receiving fewer and fewer “spam” calls. Hope this helps.

  41. Suzanne says:

    Re: Telemarketing Calls. Don’t engage at all. Look at Caller ID as phone is ringing and don’t pick up if you don’t recognize the number. Most telemarketers don’t leave messages on your voice mail. If a message from a caller begins to record, you can decide whether or not to answer at that point. In a recent article it was advised NOT to press the response key for DO NOT CALL because it shows that you picked up and listened to part of the message.

    Just because your phone rings doesn’t mean you have to answer it.

  42. Erica says:

    Very descriptive article, I enjoyed that bit. Will
    there be a part 2?

  43. belize says:

    Wonderful article! We are linking to this great content on our website.
    Keep up the great writing.

  44. JAMMIE says:

    I am a telemarketer (OUT BOUND), I’ve encountered a lot strangers over the phone, and I admit, I heard many rejections and that pulls me down to earth, coz what’s on my mind was only making a sale but not making friends at the same time, but because I love my job and its part of my job, so I just don’t put all of my attention specially while calling, may question is how can I develop friendship over the phone (COLD CALL), before making a sale or while making sale?
    kindly suggest me what to say during the introduction.
    I’m really thankful that you have created this site,

  45. Syndi Seid says:

    Dear Jammie: The best way to make friends with someone during a cold call is to be genuinely friendly and respectful of their position in being called. Do not say, Hello! is this so and so… then I say: “This is she”; Then you ask: “How are you today?” It’s such a dumb question to ask a stranger with whom you have no relationship. It’s always a dead giveaway you are a salesman, do a cold call. Rather, be honest and candid, by saying: “Hello! My name is Jammie X and I would appreciate one minute of your time to X, because XX.” Then ask a good question to gain a positive response. Is yes, you are in the door to continue to the next step in sharing your information. If the person says yes, great. If the person says no, develop just one more question to gain their trust and positive response and if not, thank them for their time and move onto the next call. Telemarketing to my knowledge is all a numbers game… make a certain number of calls and you will be bound to gain a certain number of positive responses. To me spending time to “talk someone into listening,” etc., only aggravates me and hates telemarketers all the more. The ones I have been nicest to are those who respect me and my lack of interest and hangs up.

  46. Alexandra says:

    After going over a number of the blog posts on your website, I seriously appreciate your technique of writing a blog. I saved it to my bookmark webpage list and will be checking back in the near future.

  47. JAMMIE says:

    HI! Syndi thanks for the comment. I really have to learn with these job I have now, all I’m doing is make some cold calls, selling but of course I also want to have a connection (friend) between me and my costumers.

    thanks Syndi

  48. Z-MAN says:

    If your call is that important leave a message, Don’t hang up and then call back repeatedly. If you don’t leave a message your call wasn’t important. If you do leave a message don’t keep calling. It is rude and your calling could be considered as harassment and against the FCC laws. The telephone is a tool and not a toy for your anger, frustration, or amusement.

  49. Bill says:

    I disagree about who should say Goodbye. Back in the day, when this was taught in school, it was that the caller ended the call by saying goodbye.

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