How's Your Mobile Phone Etiquette?

It was recently brought to my attention that it's no longer considered good etiquette to call someone and leave a message.  Apparently, the correct thing to do these days is text someone to see if they are available, and then call them. Calling someone unannounced is bad form, and it's even worse to leave a message.

Really? I grew up when you called a house phone, and likely had someone answer who wasn’t the person you were looking for.  It could have been their parents, or their roommate.  You asked if they were there, and you had a conversation or left a message.  We had voicemail too, and the rule was simple:  If you didn’t want to talk on the phone, you simply didn’t answer it.

These days, it appears that calling unannounced is considered rude because you are interrupting the person whom you are calling.  Since when did it become an expectation to answer the phone immediately?  I realize the same etiquette rules state you don’t need to answer the phone, but if that is the expectation, then why is it so bad to leave a message?  Leaving a message is far more personal than a text.  Text messages lack emotion (also called out in the etiquette rules).  There’s little be lost in a voice message when you can say what you mean, and the tone of your voice creates an additional sense.



And why do people expect text messages to be responded to immediately? Communication is a two-way street, and just because you have a question now, doesn’t mean the recipient of your question is expected and/or forced to respond right now.  Calls and texts, and emails for that matter, are not required to be an immediate form of communication.

I also find it interesting that these new etiquette rules apply differently to different people of different ages in different situations.   Why should that be the case?  Aren't manners interchangeable based on the situation?

These rules apply to personal communications, but they also clearly apply to business as well.  I get text messages and phone calls and emails all day from salespeople, and they try subtle little tricks like saying they “called my office” or “reached out earlier” when I know for a fact that isn’t true.  I don’t have an office, and I read all my email.

I much prefer the direct approach of “I wanted to see if we would be a fit.  Here’s what we do.”. It is simple and directly to the fact of the matter.  If I see a fit, we can talk.  If I don’t, we won’t.

If you are a real person and you give me a call, I am fine with you leaving a message.  If there’s a fit, I will respond.  To me, that is perfectly acceptable etiquette.  A person can make 10-15 calls in a day.  A robot can make 60.  If you are a robot, there’s very little chance I will respond to you, and it’s clear you are a robot if there’s no voice message.  Real people leave real messages.

The world changes pretty quickly, and most certainly etiquette has to change with it, but I don’t accept the idea that the burden of interruption lies on the person receiving the call.  The person receiving the call can decide not to answer it.  There’s no expectation (beyond my wife and my kids) that I answer it immediately.  Those exceptions are legitimate, but everyone else can easily leave a message and I will call you back if there is a reason to do so.

All in all, I think I still prefer the old etiquette.  Voicemails should not be a thing of the past.  They are a closer human connection than a text, and I hope these etiquette rules don’t overcorrect toward an impersonal approach completely.

2 comments about "How's Your Mobile Phone Etiquette?".
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  1. Ivan Barnes from Overall Murals, November 8, 2023 at 1:17 p.m.

    Hi Cory,

    You sound like a dinosaur, but I can appreciate where you're coming from.


  2. Tasha Coney from Mind Dance Marketing, November 13, 2023 at 6:33 p.m.

    This is so interesting. I do recall being told a few years ago that calling someone was rude. And I remember responding much like you. I don't believe text messages require immediate responses, but I think a call is more urgent because you could have just sent me a text.  Etiquette is etiquette and it doesn't change because it doesn't fit into someone else's ideal. My voicemail requests you text me for a faster response because I may not listen to your message for days. It's a polite request that most people follow. My phone does rarely ring and often startles me when it does, but I still have the option of choosing whether or not I answer it. As it should be.

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