The Official Guide to the Rules of Phone Conversations

Marilyn Regan Photo by Eliott Reyna on Unsplash

You’re in mid-sentence and suddenly, the person you’re talking to is mumbling something in the background.

“Sorry, did I miss something?” you ask.

“No, I was just telling so and so something.”

They’re cutting you off in mid-sentence and talking to someone else. Evidently, what you were saying wasn’t that important or interesting. I don’t know about you, but it’s a favor I would return.

When you’re talking to someone, that’s where you need to focus your attention. True, things can happen while you’re on the phone, but you should excuse yourself first and only if it’s urgent.

It’s better to give the conversation at hand your full attention, end it, and then move on to the next. Multi-tasking does not make for coherent conversations.

Things happen while we’re on the phone, but it’s another example of multi-tasking, and you can only do one thing at a time correctly. Better to finish one thing, on to the next, and give it your full attention.

Likewise, don’t pick-up your phone when you’re talking to someone in person.

Here a few rules on phone etiquette to point you in the right direction.

Say Hello When You Answer

This sounds almost ridiculous, but a friendly hello is a polite and straightforward way of answering the phone.

If you’re the caller, please identify yourself as soon as the call has been answered.

Do One Thing at a Time

Actively listen to whoever it is you’re talking to. After all, you’re having a conversation, and you need to listen to be able to respond.

Don’t start talking to other people around you. If you need to interrupt someone, say, “excuse me.” When you return to the conversation, explain the interruption source and why you needed to take it.

If it’s your kid, that will be enough of an explanation. 

Don’t stop in mid-sentence and put your hand over the phone.

Putting your hand over the phone so someone can’t hear doesn’t work; it doesn’t ensure your privacy, and it’s rude. It's like putting your hand over someone's mouth.

Use Your Phone Features

We need to stay in touch, but there are times when our phone's sound is disruptive. Appointments, meetings, live events, libraries, and church services are a few.

Put your phone on silent or vibrate. It will allow you to see who’s calling as well. 

But do make sure it’s urgent. After a while, those critical calls lose their status.

Speak Softly

Don’t yell into your phone. It’s not pleasant for the person at the other end of it or anyone else around you. No one else cares about your conversation.

Imagine yourself having a face-to-face conversation with someone. You wouldn’t talk loudly, would you? Unless the person you’re speaking with is hard of hearing, of course.

And if you’re brave enough, you might want to suggest they get a hearing aid, though it can be a touchy subject.

Avoid Sensitive Information

Don’t let the cat out of the bag in public.

If you’re in public having a private conversation, then it’s not private. People hear you whether they want to or not.


Never text while driving. Many states have a hands-free law to discourage this habit. Keep your eyes on the road when driving.

Don’t text during meetings or a class.

And never text sensitive information as it can be forwarded.

Don’t Forget Your Voice Mail.

You’ve done the right thing by either turning your phone off or letting calls go to voice mail.

Now it’s time to check it. Take a message, return a call, or even text your reply. 

Unless it’s a telemarketer or robocaller.

Then delete, delete, delete.

* * *

Anytime you interact with someone by phone, it’s good to remember that there is, indeed, another human being at the end of the line.

Your voice carries, so when you’re in public, don’t talk as if you’re having a conversation with everyone around you. Respect their privacy. And yours.

Remember your safety and that of others when you use the phone. It exists to make our lives easier and safer, but that’s up to you.


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Marilyn is a writer, yogi, spiritual medium and animal lover. She is a Bostonian in every sense and has the accent to prove it. She loves the ocean, the outdoors, wine, and sleeping in. She days what she means and doesn't waste words. Finally, she is mother to one son, two cats and has three grandchildren.


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