Friday, 6 July 2012

Telephone Etiquette

Our Phone: which actually  still works!
Hearing the phone ring at "odd" hours is always potentially fraught with anxiety and stress.
To me, a "chit-chat" phone call only happens between the perimeters of say 9.00am to 9.30pm....outside  those times phone calls are usually a sign that something is amiss.
This morning the phone rang three times  well before 8am.
To put it delicately, I was busy "in the loo!" so had to be content with checking the answer phone to find out just why someone would be ringing me at such an antisocial time.
Luckily there was no real "disaster" to deal with, just a somewhat garbled phone message from an elderly villager who needed a hand to sort out a computer problem, but the phone call got me to thinking about acceptable and unacceptable telephone etiquette in this, our age where everyone and his mother owns a mobile phone.
I have received my fair share of "out of hours" phone calls which heralded the death of a loved one and there is nothing quite as blood chilling as that "ringggggg- ringgggg....ringggggg-ringggggg" that jars you out of a peaceful sleep and makes you gallop downstairs with a heavy heart and a lump in your throat.

I have had to make numerous of these kind of phone calls in my time. Mostly at work to be sure, but to be honest I have had to make quite a few that have been much more personal, and none of them have ever been easy calls to make.
Nurses never have any training in this sort of just pick it up as you go along. But there are several rules with this sort of thing that haves to be adhered to.
The first is that by hook and by crook, you should avoid making the phone call in the first place. Relatives and next of kin should be aware, if at all possible that their loved one is deteriorating and that they should come to the hospital immediately. In many of these kind of cases the patient often dies before the relatives arrive, but at least the nurse can break the bad news face to face, where physical as well as psychological support can be given personally and hopefully with some sensitivity.
If you have to break bad news over the phone, the rule is that it has to be done carefully, briefly and most importantly CLEARLY, as relatives will only hear a couple of words that you actually say to them.
All they will hear is "Hospital.....I am very sorry..... and "has died" very little else will register, especially in the lonely darkness of 2am in the morning.
Perhaps my work experience has coloured just how I feel about "inappropriately timed" phone calls. 
So, if it is not an emergency please do not call me "out of hours"
... it's not rocket science!


  1. I totally agree with you about phoning 'out of hours'. My father in law has always got up ridiculously early and so for him calling at 8am is probably equivalent to me phoning someone at 11. It always freaks me out to hear that ringing before I am totally conscious. Hope your duck came back. xxx

  2. Reminds me of the time when my Mother shook her double-six and my brother volunteered to help my sister and I ring around with the horrible news. He made his first call, to an elderly relative-in-law & friend since childhood of my Mother, opening with the immortal words "Hello Kit - Mum's dead." No preamble, no nuthin', just that.

    We didn't let him make any more calls after that!

  3. We are currently suffering from silent calls. I believe that it is certain 'double glazing' type traders who ring 'automatically' at different times of day just to see when you pick up the phone. Later they phone you 'for real' at that time (knowing that you'll probably be in! Bloody people.

  4. It´s mobile phones that have destroyed the last vestiges of telephone etiquette and bosses are the bloody worst. Imagine getting a call at midnight. 'It is midnight here, sir, is there anything you expect me to do about this now? I mean, Right Now?´ 'Er, well, no´ ´Goodnight Sir´

    And then I´M the one who gets the reputation for being a grumpy old sod...

  5. Totally agree John. We have recently had phone calls at 1:30 am - Tony's mother calling from her bedside phone in the hospital because there were "strange people" in her room !!! I had to ring the hospital with the mobile while he tried to calm her on the other phone. Happened several times that night. Why they didn't take her phone away I don't know.
    Really gives you a jolt.
    PS. Owl Wood :I've never heard of the term " shook her double six" before. I understand it means she died??? but where does it come from?

  6. We live in a county which was/is mostly agricultural, folks are up and at 'em around five in the morning.
    When the phone rings after 10 P.M. it's always a hold your breath moment, as most are in bed !
    Telemarketers are able to call until 9 P.M. and take full advantage of that law.
    Sorry to read your duck has not returned :(

  7. Never mind the "after hours", I am always getting telemarketers calling it seems as soon as the first fork full of dinner is about to enter my mouth ! Murphy's Law strikes again. Funny how we have programmed outselves to think the worse at the sound of a phoning ringing in the dead of the night. Hubby's friend called at 4 am past Saturday night, I thought the worse.

  8. Anonymous12:08 pm

    When our parents were aging and being impossible about insisting on living independently, every time the phone rang, day or night, we hit the ceiling. Sure enough, every BAD call came at night. I still hate it when the phone rings in the evening.

  9. I hate the intrusiveness of the phone, full stop.
    I hate people ringing me "for a chat"! Email for me, old fashioned letters or meet for coffee/lunch. Failing that, smoke signals, carrier pidgeon, ESP anything but that dratted instrument.

  10. I go by your rule book too, if we get a late call I assume it's bad news about elderly parents in the UK.
    Jane x

  11. I loathe the telephone at the best of times and certainly don't call people after 7.00 pm....
    I had a spate of nuisance calls when in France, always when my husband was in hospital and always in the small hours from a 'phone hiding its number.
    I don't think that it should be possible to hide a number.

  12. A phone call in the middle of the night is always scary. I had one which was a wrong number, but it did not make me any less scared John, so I do agree about keeping phone hours.

  13. 2am - My sister in-law ringing from the U.S.A., "I just thought I would ring for a chat". Grrr.:o(

  14. I usually don't call anyone past 9 pm unless it's really and truly urgent. One notable exception was when i'd ring a friend who worked nights. We'd chat till midnight or so.

    My work number is one number off from a rehab, and someone at some point gave out MY number as the rehab number. I had any number of drunk and high people calling me at all clocks. The IT deparment would NOT change my phone number, so i got in the habit of not answering the work phone after hours. Still, it was annoying.

  15. We get so many calls where no one is there -- I think they are 'robo' calls and they recur at the same time throughout the day. There is also one particular 'scam' caller who I had no truck with. He was calling from India and for an American company claiming to want to buy up stock options. They have called us dozens of times. First I said we didn't want to talk to them at all, please don't call again and hung up as he was in mid point. He jerk called me back and started again saying he wanted to explain. I told him his company were crooks and thieves and to go away and hung up again. Believe it or not he called me back again and said Mrs. ____, you are a bitch! I hung up laughing and wishing I'd thought to say, 'You got the message, then!"

  16. My dad was in the hospital for nearly a year prior to his heart transplant, so I know that late-night-phone-ringing dread. Fortunately the one I remember most clearly was the one from my mother telling me a heart had been found and he was going into surgery. Of course, that call was at 11 in the morning!

  17. I've joined that list where it's illegal for a company to 'cold call' your number. Answer their 'and how are you today' with a 'it's illegal for you to call me' and the dial tone sounds pretty promptly.

    MiL once called us from the US at 6am on Jan 1st after we'd been partying until 2/3am. We were not amused.

  18. Late night calls always prompt fears of some unknown calamity, so I never call anyone after about 8PM unless I absolutely must. Bigger problem for me is to restrain myself from calling too early in the AM. I'm an early riser, but most of my friends aren't. By the way, we have a telephone that looks just like the one in your picture. It also works. An even older one is here in my office, and it works, too, but we disconnected it, because it bogs down the line by drawing too much current. Still looks super on my desk, though.

  19. oh my next post has mysteriously been deleted!

  20. I wanted to read your next post!

    Weekdays, my phone hours are 8 - 10, weekends they're 10 - 10...although we have a friend who insists on ringing us at 9 in the morning on a Saturday...grrr...

  21. Had a call at midnight once to invite me to a party. As I was working on a farm at the time and starting work at 6:30 I had to decline. Phoned them at six the next morning to thank them for their kind invite though.

  22. Is this your lost post...I didn't steal it honest!

    wet dogs 100 flood alerts are in force for England and Wales But still dogs have to be walked and eggs need to be delivered When the dogs and I battled my way to Mrs Trellice's with a soaked half dozen I passed affable despot Jason in his sou'wester, who was going to pick up his daughter from school Marks go to him for the most humorous quote of the wet day As he pointed to the trio of wet canines at my feet he quipped with characteristic cheerfulness "I haven't seen so much dedication to a dog since Paul married Linda McCartney"

  23. We are being plagued with 'cold callers' - mostly from Indian-based call centres - at all hours of the day. As a result ALL calls on our landline now go unanswered by person and direct to the electronic voice of the answering machine.

    I've noticed that most of these now hang-up as soon as the answering machine cuts in.

  24. I ignore my land line 90% of the time, if it's anyone who knows me they will taxt me first to ask me to answer.
    I was trying to read your "floods" post but it's gone? . . . I'm getting a bit worried about all of these floods.

  25. I had to make one of those around midnight calls. Worst moment in my life.

  26. We start in the barn at 7 am, so early calls are welcome. After 8pm, it had better be an emergency.

  27. I agree! I just hate when my phone rings at "out of hours" time. One always assumes someone has died or is in critical condition at he hospital!

    Honeyman and I now only have cell phones, so many here are going to that. No hard wired phone. I turn mine off a lot LOL. I figure well people can leave a message right LOL. I am not a chatty on the phone sort LOL.

    Honeymans is his work phone as well, darn thing rings day and night I swear! argghhhh

  28. Phoning to say someone has died must be about the hardest type of phone call to make. Fortunately I've never yet had to do it. Good point about it being clear and succinct.

    Like Cro Magnon, I get a constant stream of silent calls from companies. I can never trace the number so there's no way of stopping it. But I have to answer the phone in case it's an emergency....

  29. True! In this manner, people should know the proper telephone decorum. Call center agents, for example, are trained on business telephone etiquette. There are even companies who provide training for that, because in business world, deals can be broken and contracts can be lost with only one bad phone conversation.

    Sonia Roody

  30. Truly, it is an "informal" etiquette to never call beyond 8pm, if not needed. I mean, proper phone decorum, as Sonia said, is important in every phone call you make, and that includes what time will you call. For example, calling at the wee hours in the morning will surely be a major distraction, right?

    [Ruby Chelmsford]


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