When you call someone and they don’t pick up, you have the simple choice to leave a message or not. While this may seem like a simple decision, it’s one that some struggle with.
It is considered rude if you don’t leave a message?
The simple answer is no. It’s not considered rude to not leave a message. However, it’s also considerate to leave a message, even a short one stating the purpose of your call.
Considering the Caller
According to the Etiquette School of America, the decision of whether it’s best to leave a message is left up to the caller.
There may be multiple reasons why a person doesn’t leave a message.
They might have called by accident or want to share information that’s not best communicated in a voicemail. This information may be sensitive or simply something you wouldn’t want to leave on a voicemail.
These are all good reasons to not leave a voicemail.
However, while not required, it may be best to leave a brief voicemail stating the purpose of your call.
Have you ever gotten a call and not known the purpose? It can cause panic and even just some worry when you’re not aware of why a person has called. When a person leaves a brief message stating the purpose of their call, this considerate move is a good option.
For example, if you’re calling to share sensitive information, you don’t have to leave that information on the voicemail. However, you can leave a brief message that you have something important to share and request they call back at a convenient time.
Stating the general purpose and the urgency of the call in the message. This information will be greatly appreciated by the receiver of the call.
Consider a Text
Although it’s never a bad idea to leave a message, consider sending a text instead of leaving a voicemail if you’re calling a cell phone. This is a good idea to do before you call. Many people don’t pay much attention to their phones but do check them periodically.
They may appreciate a text stating that you’d like to call and asking if you’re available. The person you’re trying to reach may not currently be available. However, by texting them before you try to call, you’ll have a better idea if that person is available or not.
Another option is to leave a text instead of a voicemail. This will only be possible if you know the person can take text messages on their phone so it’s best to leave a voicemail if you’re unsure.
However, you can also send a quick text after calling and state the general purpose of your call. This may be a simple way for you to share that you’re just calling to talk and not for any serious purpose.
Another option is that you can state that the call is for a serious purpose and you need to get in touch with that person. Many people don’t frequently check their voicemails but may see your text right away and then can adjust their availability accordingly.
Picking Up Calls
Many people today do not enjoy answering calls. They may prefer to let the call go to voicemail and then determine whether or not to call back.
While this behavior is understandable since the person called may be busy at present, this can be a sign of rudeness.
In general, it’s best to answer calls if you’re available.
However, if you want to ensure that your call will be answered, you may want to reach out to the person ahead of time to make sure that they’re available. People are much more likely to pick up an expected call and will be aware of their phone.
Understanding Phone Etiquette
Although people are much more informal with their phones than ever before, there are still some phone etiquette principles to keep in mind when using a phone.
Regardless of whether you’re taking a personal or professional call, it’s best to follow these general principles as much as you reasonably can. These are some of the guidelines to keep in mind.
1. Answer in Three Rings
People don’t like to be kept waiting and it’s best to either accept the call or send it to voicemail promptly. This is especially important if you’re using your phone to speak with clients or customers.
If you’re in a position where you need to be available to callers, then it’s best to answer the phone, even if you don’t recognize the number.
However, people will be frustrated if they have to wait for the phone to go to voicemail as this can take a few minutes. If you can’t take the call, then send it promptly to voicemail so the person on the line isn’t kept waiting.
2. Confirm Your Identity
When you answer a call, the person on the line likely knows who you are.
However, it’s best to confirm that you’re speaking with the right person.
This is preferable for professional calls and you can be more informal when it comes to personal calls. Since the call could be from a wrong number, by introducing yourself, you’re being more efficient with everyone’s time.
If you’re answering professional calls, it’s usually best to introduce yourself, remind the caller of the company you’re working with and make sure to note the name of the caller. Then inquire how you can assist.
The customer will appreciate knowing your name as well as your eagerness to help them out. This sets the tone well for the call and improves your chances of it going well.
3. Speak Slowly and Clearly
Some people get nervous on the phone which often makes them speak rapidly. While it can be tempting to do this, remember that you don’t have the same communication when you’re on the phone.
Not being able to see a person’s expressions or body language means that you have to speak clearly to be understood.
Having a strong voice and speaking slowly may take some practice but it’s a good way to be understood well. You want to be heard and also avoid having to repeat yourself. Having a confident voice will make your voice heard and also improve your trust.
4. Avoid Using the Speakerphone
We all know that speakerphone is a useful tool. However, if you’ve ever been on the phone with someone who is using a speakerphone, then you likely know how difficult it can be to hear them.
It’s both frustrating and impossible to have a good conversation when someone is on speakerphone.
By avoiding using the speakerphone, you’ll be giving the person on the call your full attention. You may need to use the speakerphone sometimes such as when you’re on a conference call or trying to troubleshoot.
However, if you find yourself frequently needing to use a speakerphone, then it may be best to invest in a headset that will give you the hands-free option.
5. Be an Active Listener
When it comes to being a part of a conversation, being an active listener is essential. This means giving the call your full attention and responding appropriately. This is especially important when you’re taking calls like a professional but it’s also a good idea in a personal conversation.
It’s easy to multitask when you’re on the phone but avoid doing that if you can.
Instead, consider taking notes during the conversation to mark any important information that you need to know or want to remember. By taking notes, you’ll have an idea of what you discussed and also be able to follow up as needed.
You don’t need to record the entire conversation but it’s a good idea to jot down the main points so you’ll have them for future reference. Many people who work in customer service do this and find that this habit helps them tremendously.
6. Use Appropriate Language
The key difference between personal and professional calls is going to be the language and tone that you use.
It may be acceptable to use slang when speaking to friends but this is not usually appropriate when having a professional call.
Regardless of professional or personal though, it’s best to speak clearly and avoid using too much slang or any swearing. This could be upsetting and may come across poorly on a call. In contrast, an in-person conversation may not run into this problem.
However, since you can’t always gauge reactions on the phone, speak respectfully and use appropriate language to avoid running into problems.
Always Be Courteous
Now that you have an idea of how to behave on the phone, keep in mind that there is any number of scenarios not discussed here.
In general, it’s best to answer your phone promptly and leave a voicemail when calling.
Although not strictly required, it may be best to follow this habit. While not rude, taking this step is considerate when considering phone etiquette. Come from a place of courtesy and respect for the best options.
Sophie Hammond is a journalist, psychologist, and freelance speechwriter for people in politics and business. She lives on the edge of the Rocky Mountains with her dog and a lifetime supply of books. When she’s not writing, she can be found wandering through nature or journaling at a coffee shop.