Everyday Etiquette: Using the Telephone
by Diane Gottsman

How to Make Sure Proper Phone Manners Are Not a Lost Art in Your Family

The idea of teaching a child how to answer the telephone seems relatively easy, right? Think again. There are so many things to consider today that we would have never have considered in years past. Here are a few simple guidelines for parents to consider when teaching their children telephone etiquette.

Answering the Telephone

• A simple “Hello” is all that is necessary as a greeting. Giving out a last name poses a safety risk. Inform your child not to answer any questions, such as “I went to college with a Miller, where does your family live?”

• If the caller asks for a family member, the response should be “One moment please, may I tell her who is calling?”

• If a child is home alone and a caller asks for a parent or family member, simply say “She can’t come to the phone right now, may I have her call you back?”

• Don’t ever give out your phone number or place it on a voice mail greeting.
• Always have a notepad and a pencil or pen by the telephone.

• Write down the name of the person calling, the time of the call and a return telephone number.

• Don’t scream out “Hey mom, you’ve got a call.” Say, “One moment please,” and in a conversational tone let the family member know he or she has a call.

Making a Call and Leaving a Message

• Always say “Hello” in your friendliest voice.

• Speak your name and request. For example: “Hello Mrs. Smith, this is Johnny, may I speak with Tommy please?”

• If you accidentally dial a wrong number, be courteous and apologize. It is discourteous to just hang up.

• If you must leave a voice mail message, leave your name, time of your call, telephone number and the name of the person you are trying to reach.

• Don’t mumble or leave a long, rambling message.

Other Telephone Courtesies

• Don’t call too early in the morning or too late at night.

• Let the phone ring long enough for someone to get it from anywhere in the house.

• If the answering machine picks up, don’t hang up. Leave a short message.

• Don’t forget to deliver another family member’s message.

• If your family has call waiting, never ignore the beep. It may be an emergency. Excuse yourself and tell the person you are talking with that the other call may be important and that you’ll just be a second.

• Don’t bump one friend for another

• Always end a telephone conversation by saying “I have to go now. It was nice talking to you.”

Remember, as parents, we set the example for our children. These telephone etiquette tips can be taught to children but, like any behavior, they must be reinforced by the adults living in the house with them.

Diane Gottsman is a nationally recognized etiquette and protocol expert who leads age-appropriate etiquette programs for children as well as adults striving to fine-tune their skills. She has a master’s degree in sociology/education. For more information, check out

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