Lindsey’s Lessons in Phone Etiquette

I was talking to a guy friend on the phone this evening and it was blatantly obvious that he was doing something else while chatting with me. Hey, I understand that everyone is busy and that every now and then, it’s easy to be preoccupied with something while you’re doing something else — we’re a society of multitaskers. And I understand that sometimes while you’re talking with someone, something else catches your eye, like your computer or your television. But if you call someone with the sole intent of talking to them and finding out how their day went, you do not multitask the majority of the time. Shouldn’t he at least attempt to keep his attention on what I’m saying and process the words I’m using?

How did I know I was a victim to this careless crime? I heard the response, “Only time will tell,” about seven times, all for different stories I was sharing. While these words of wisdom did technically apply to all my stories, I have never heard those words come out of this person’s mouth. Ever. So I found it a bit strange that he was all of a sudden a huge fan of the advice. I will say that this friend is someone who tends to stumble upon a phrase and cling to it — using it multiple times a day. But seven times in one phone conversation? And some of the instances he used it in were kind of odd.

  • One story I shared was about a close friend who has a huge decision to make in her life. I gave a few minor details to the story just for context, then explained her next steps in the decision-making process. “Hmm, well, only time will tell.” This is sort of true, but usually he’s someone who would provide his opinion. Usually a very strong opinion that I would prefer he tone down since he’s usually just making up his own details to the story and making everything way worse than it actually is.
  • Another story I shared was about how a couple of my girl friends are coming to visit in a few weeks and what our lodging options are. “Yeah, I guess only time will tell.” Um, obviously…but why would you even respond like that to my situation? Couldn’t he muster up something better than that. Maybe, “Your first option sounds expensive, what about …?” or “That’s stupid.” Even an insult would have been better received at this point.

Then I told him about how I plan to meet with financial advisors who are visiting my office next week to discuss options I have and what their recommendations might be. I told him this was happening on Monday. Then he segued into asking what days I’m taking off this week, which I had already told him and had connected them to things related to him. Then he asks when I’m meeting with the financial guys and I repeat that it’s happening Monday. So he says I’ll have to let him know how that goes — as if we won’t be talking until after Monday — because it sounds really interesting. “Only time will tell,” I say jokingly, hoping he’ll catch on that I’m making fun of him. But because he’s not paying any attention to the words coming out of my mouth, especially the straight-up hilarious ones, he just says, “That’s the truth.”

I’ll tell you what the truth is! The truth is that I’m onto you and your not-so-clever ways of pretending to be listening (like asking questions you’d never ask in a normal conversation) but screwing it up (because the answers to the questions were stated about 30 seconds before you asked). I appreciated the effort to disguise the distraction, but I think it would have been less work to just talk to me, with undivided attention, for about eight minutes, and then call it good.

When I called him on his obviously poor phone etiquette, he admitted that he was in the middle of something else but was still listening. This is when he gave examples of what we’d talked about. Again, just another ploy to seem like a phone-friendly part of society. But when I was able to poke holes in all of his so-called examples, he surrendered and apologized. While that conversation couldn’t be saved, I hope that it will somehow make him think twice about his future phone behavior.

But he’s a guy, and a guy’s guy at that, so I’m pretty sure it won’t make a bit of difference. Only time will tell.

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6 thoughts on “Lindsey’s Lessons in Phone Etiquette

  1. that is so annoying when that happens! my handsome husband does that quite frequently – and not just on the phone, but when i’m actually sitting in the same room as him! i’d love to say it’s just “a guy thing”, but i know i’m guilty of multi-tasking like that too occasionaly. my favorite way to catch someone who is suspected of doing this – throwing out completely random phrases and seeing if they catch it. ie: “and then the camel’s head exploded”. I’ve heard some odd responses to that – although I haven’t yet heard the “only time will tell” .

    1. I will definitely try to incorporate something about a camel’s head exploding. I don’t know how I could go wrong with that.

  2. I’m with Anne Marie on this one, I’ll usually segue into some story about how my ultrasound went or that I found the comfiest pair of pantyhose ever…sadly, this only works to catch people about half the time, which makes me think perhaps my friends assume I’m capable of requiring an ultrasound or sampling the finest in hosiery that Boston has to offer. :-/

    1. Hahaha, if some guy told me his ultrasound went well, I’d think that he had some kind of health issue that I should know about but don’t remember hearing, and then I’d feel too guilty to ask about it. I’d call or contact anyone else who knows him and ask him what the deal is. Then I’d find out it’s because I’m a sucky listener.

      A comfy pair of pantyhose is hard to find! Anyone who hears that should be instantly intrigued.

  3. I can’t multi-task. If there’s a tv on in the room with sound or captions, I lose track of the thought that there’s a telephone conversation going on at all. The same applies to anything with sound. To talk to my girlfriend I usually need to be completely isolated or (and this one’s weird) be in the car on my bluetooth while driving. For some reason I can pay attention to what I’m doing and talk at the same time.

    Yeah, it’s a guy thing, so I’ve told her that if I’m doing something else and she’s talking to me, she may as well either give up, or get my attention and ask me to listen to her for a few minutes at least. She thinks that it’s being pushy to ask me to do that. I tell her that it’s the only way she’ll get anything past my eardrums.

    On the other side of phone etiquette as a guy, if we’re busy and our girl calls, we will usually try to multi-task, and come up with something that possibly relates to something you might say. When she calls and can tell I’m busy or distracted she calls me on it and asks if she can call later. Usually in an irritated tone. When she does this I’ll either setup a time to talk to her or I’ll stop what I’m doing (if I can).

    1. Yeah, I’ve usually resorted to turning the TV off if I want to have a somewhat serious conversation — or any conversation, for that matter — with a guy.

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