Telephone Etiquette for Teens

How many times have you received a telephone call and responded with remarks that got you in trouble with your parents or friends? Probably enough to make you wonder what went wrong. Although telephone etiquette sounds like something from a syndicated column of old, you’ll find that there are still some basic rules that can protect you from weirdos and keep you out of social troubles. Here are five telephone etiquette tips that are applicable to you, a teen in 2008. Really.

  1. Be polite. If you’ve called a friend, who happens to be having a bad hair day and answers, “What d’ya want?”, you may or may not be offended, depending on how well you know them. However, what if that’s you answering and the caller is that hot guy you’ve been dying to date? Not so good. Extend this courtesy to everyone, because you never know who might be calling. It could be a teacher wanting to speak to your Mom.
  2. When the caller asks for another person in your household, always ask who’s calling. “Can I say who’s calling?” When you’re told who the caller is, follow up with, “Sure, let me see if they’re around.” This allows the person called to beg off for the moment even if they are home. Maybe Mom’s too busy to talk with Jane just now. Maybe your sister is on the outs with her boyfriend. You can always come back to the caller and say, “I’m sorry, she’s gone to the store. Can I take a message?”
  3. When you take a message, write it down along with the number if given. The ask, “OK, let me read it back to be sure I have it.” Repeat the message. This is important in the teen’s telephone etiquette repertoire. If it’s your Dad’s boss calling from Timbuktu and you don’t get it right, you’re in trouble. If it’s your sister’s boyfriend, he’ll know she’s not interested in talking to him. In any case, it works out for you.
  4. Know what the family policy is on handling solicitors. Many companies employ callers to make random telephone calls to try to sell everything from vacuum cleaners to credit card offers. If your family doesn’t want such calls, don’t accept them. Tell them not to call again. By law, they cannot. If your parents say they don’t want you to screen such calls, ask them to call back at whatever time you expect your parents.
  5. In terms of safety, here is the most important of our five telephone etiquette tips: Surely you’ve heard of stalkers and other such undesirables, who may call your home when they know your parents are at work or whatever. If you don’t know them, never reveal that you’re home alone or when you expect your parents or anything else. Take a message.

Telephone etiquette is not uncool. It does keep you out of trouble. Cool.