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DYDT: Do You Always Pick Up the Phone?

A few weeks ago, I asked a question about phone call lateness which raised a tangential question: do you always pick up the phone when it rings?

I’m always a bit surprised when someone answers the phone to tell me that they can’t talk.  Why didn’t they just allow voice mail to pick up?  Then we would have effectively accomplished the same thing: you would know I want to talk, I would know you can’t talk at the moment, you would call me back.  I don’t take it personally if I call someone, knowing they’re home, and they don’t pick up.  I just assume that they are busy inside the house.  Not everyone sits around, drumming their fingers on the table, waiting for me to call.

Plus, if it goes to voice mail, I can say what I needed to say.  If they pick up and say they can’t talk, I now need to go write down the question I was going to ask them so I still remember it when they call back.

This is obviously different from screening out phone solicitors.  I mean, I don’t pick up for phone solicitors at all, even if I’m not busy.  (I apologize, phone solicitors, but I will never buy something over the phone so it feels like a waste of your time too if I pick up.)  I don’t screen anyone else’s call though.  I pick up for everyone who isn’t a phone solicitor if I can talk.  So if I’m not picking up, it means that I can’t talk or I’m not home.

But some of the answers on that phone lateness post (and whether you turn your cell phone off at night) made me wonder if I was being rude by not picking up.  Was it better to pick up the phone and explain that I really don’t have time to speak?  Would people respect that and allow me to get off the phone immediately, or would they argue with me that the thing they had to say would only take a second?  There are times when I’m cooking when even a second is a second too long.

So, am I the only one?  Do you answer the phone when you can’t speak to tell the person you can’t speak, or do you allow it to go to voice mail/the answering machine and then call them back later?  Do you take it personally when you know someone is home and not answering?

25 comments

1 Catwoman73 { 09.01.13 at 7:53 am }

I NEVER answer my home phone when it rings. I just assume it’s someone trying to sell me something. We’re likely going to get rid of our home phone altogether for that reason- why even have it if we’re never going to pick it up?

When it comes to my cell phone, it’s a different story. I have call display, so I answer if it’s someone I need to talk to, or if I have the time to talk, AND feel like talking (I don’t always feel like chatting). Otherwise, it goes to voicemail, and I deal with it later. I get the odd unknown number, or blocked number- I never answer those.

I certainly don’t take it personally if someone isn’t answering, even when I know they are at home. I do the same thing! People are busy, so you can’t blame them for not having time to talk. And it’s totally fine to just not feel like talking, too. I am not easily offended!

2 Catwoman73 { 09.01.13 at 7:55 am }

Oh yeah… and I prefer texting if I just need to ask a quick question, or give someone some little piece of information. Texting is a quick and efficient way of communicating, which suits my busy life very well!

3 Kate { 09.01.13 at 8:19 am }

It annoys me when people pick up & can’t talk….they hardly ever remember to call me back whereas if I left them a voicemail it would be a reminder for them. I don’t think it’s rude to leave it….you can’t do everything at once:)

4 Ellen { 09.01.13 at 8:19 am }

Tangentially (because, new topics inevitably spring from old ones!) the debate we had in our house the other day was the concept of “home phone.” I was trying to explain to my children what it was like in the olden days, when if you wanted to call someone, you called their *house,* and had to speak first to whomever picked up the phone.

I then wondered aloud to my husband how many US homes still bother with a landline. Quick internet research would suggest that half of American households either don’t have or never use one.

We lived in China for a few years, and our flat came with a “home phone” that was part of our rental agreement. I couldn’t have worked out what the phone number was for that thing if you paid me. We picked it up exactly once. After that, it would ring once or twice a year, and we’d all sit around staring at it.

We’ve since rented house in other countries where we don’t speak the language and have never bothered with a land line. I don’t have VM, so if someone does actually call me on my mobile, I pick it up. But, I prefer texting, and people who know me know that. I’m not a phone chat sort of person, so if you want to chat with me, make a coffee date. Otherwise, email, FB, you know, *social* media me.

I do use Skype, to keep in contact with my husband (who actually lives in another country), and my dad. But, again, I really don’t like to just chat. So odds of getting me to pick up the phone if you randomly Skype me aren’t very high.

5 wolfers { 09.01.13 at 9:19 am }

I don’t pick phone up to answer- not for your reasons, but that I’m deaf. So any voice messages are a waste of time, unless someone leave a text message, then I’ll answer.

6 N { 09.01.13 at 9:21 am }

I do not always pick it up. In fact, I rarely do. Heh. I never answer if my phone doesn’t know who it is, unless I’m expecting a call (from, for example a repair company or something), and if I’m busy I don’t pick up. And b/c of my phone anxiety, I don’t ALWAYS even answer if I’m not busy and know who it is, so that I can know what they want and prep. Which is, perhaps, silly, but such is life.

7 loribeth { 09.01.13 at 9:30 am }

I adore the call display feature on my home phone; it is worth every extra penny it costs. If I don’t recognize the number, I generally will not answer. I figure if it’s really important, you’ll leave me a message. We just get too many solicitation calls (despite being on every available Do Not Call list). :p

But if I’m home, I generally do answer the phone, unless, say, I’m in the shower or something. (Although I have set the phone on the floor outside the shower — and I have answered when dh called, & told him I was in the shower & would call him back. I figured he’d worry if I didn’t answer.)

There are times when we call dh’s dad or my parents & the phone rings & rings when we’re pretty sure they’re home. Often they are, but they’re out in the yard or garden, or (in FIL’s case — he is very hard of hearing) they just don’t hear it ringing.

With Skype — there are times when I’m on the computer but I hit “offline” because I see my mother is also online, & I just don’t want to talk to her at the moment… e.g., we’re just going to have dinner, or there’s a TV show I’m wanting to watch without interruption. 😉

8 Rach { 09.01.13 at 9:49 am }

I don’t always answer – whether I’m busy, about to be busy, or just not feeling like chatting. I don’t think it’s rude…I have voicemail so that people can leave a message if needed and I can call them back. I wouldn’t ever answer to say I was busy – I know I would forget to call them back and I think that would be rude! Likewise, if I know someone’s home and I call them I always assume they’re just busy too. I don’t take it personally and I hope no one who calls me, and I don’t answer, ever takes it personally either because it’s definitely not meant that way. 🙂

9 Kate { 09.01.13 at 10:13 am }

My husband’s parents will often keep calling every 5-10 minutes instead of just leaving a message – if you’ve got someone like that on your life (and no caller ID), then picking up just to say you can’t talk makes sense. I generally don’t answer unless I can talk though.

10 Another Dreamer { 09.01.13 at 11:19 am }

Sometimes I answer it when I can’t talk because it could be an emergency, so I ask if it’s an emergency then offer to call back in a little bit when I’m free. Mostly this applies to my friend getting married this month, as I’m her bridesmaid and I know she has an anxiety disorder. It depends on the person, whether the hour is normal for them, or whether calling is normal for them (one friend prefers texting, has most time for that), etc… to determine if I should answer it. Now, if I’m in the shower or just sat down for dinner… I might silence my phone, and just let things go. I guess sometimes it depends on my mood, or what exactly I’m busy with.

11 Laurel (Dawn Storey) { 09.01.13 at 11:46 am }

I’m right there with you, Melissa, on all counts! Thank goodness for call display and voice mail – hard to remember what we did before those were invented!

12 Kimberly { 09.01.13 at 1:49 pm }

I’m one of those ‘it depends on the situation’ people. I only have a cell so people know if I don’t answer I’m busy or driving. But if someone calls who would keep calling til I answered, then I would answer to say I can’t talk. I prefer to answer when I can because I honestly hate voicemail and I always have. But I think that may stem back to hearing my own voice on other people’s machines and hating how I sounded.

13 Bionic { 09.01.13 at 3:40 pm }

I don’t think it’s rude not to answer, but unless there is a 100% chance the person calling could not possibly be calling with Terrible News, my anxieties will drive me mad unless I do answer. This may in part be an effect of growing up with doctors, knowing that phone calls could very well be from the hospital, a colleague, or the parent of a patient. The phone rang in the middle of the night reasonably often when I was a child, and it was always, always, always answered.

14 It Is What It Is { 09.01.13 at 5:11 pm }

It completely annoys me when someone answers the phone to tell me they can’t talk. I just don’t get it. Nothing gets accomplished and I certainly don’t get to meet my goal of A) speaking to the person or B) leaving a message stating my needs.

I do not take it personally if I know someone is home (or in their car, etc) and don’t take my call. There have been times where I’ve been IMing with someone and we agree they are going to call me, but they wait just a nanosecond too long and the baby is up from nap and needs to be changed/fed/etc and now I can’t talk. Life happens.

I also get annoyed, though, if you don’t answer the phone, I leave a message and then you call me right back before listening to my message so I have to repeat everything again. However, maybe you really want to talk to me and feel it is better to call right back than risk getting my voicemail.

Conversely, if someone calls me and I have the time to chat and want to speak with them (sometimes, even when I have the time, I’m not in the mood to speak to certain people, which is a whole other DYDT “Do you have to been in the mood to speak with certain people yet others you can always speak to?”.

But, these days, I am generally in a mood so rarely talk to anyone with any regularity.

15 It Is What It Is { 09.01.13 at 5:13 pm }

Oh, and like Catwoman73, I much prefer texting. I sometimes feel like a teenager in that I send well over 1,000 txts/mo. So much can be accomplished esp when the other person prefers texting, too.

16 Her Royal Fabulousness { 09.01.13 at 8:11 pm }

I am a call screener for sure. I rarely have a good moment to talk when the phone rings and I’m a big emailer/IMer/texter instead. I feel like these days I actually make appts to have phone/video chats. I think it is silly to pick up the phone to say you can’t talk too…it’s like showing up at someone’s house saying you don’t have time to visit. 🙂

17 Tiara { 09.01.13 at 8:14 pm }

A lot of what I’d say has already been said but I’d like to share what really drives me crazy…when someone calls but doesn’t leave a message, which I assume means they were just calling to chat about nothing important…then they ream me for not calling back! Well if you wanted me to call back you should have left a message!!! Grr!

18 Tigger { 09.01.13 at 9:28 pm }

There was a time when I could say that I ALWAYS pick up the phone. Then my mom died, and my dad started calling me 3-4 times a DAY to talk about nothing (or the same thing over and over) for months on end and I…didn’t always pick up. I couldn’t. I was drowning in my own grief and I couldn’t handle his on top of it. I know, some think I’m a bad daughter for that and I don’t disagree but I did what I had to do for my own self-preservation. It’s better, now. I mean, we never really talked BEFORE mom died so even talking a couple times a week is pretty good for us. Heck, we went over a week w/o talking because I pissed him off and I got WORRIED!

And yes, there are still rare times when I don’t want to talk to him, so I don’t answer. I can’t think of anyone else I don’t pick up the phone for, but that’s because hardly anyone else ever calls me on a regular basis (except husband). If someone else is calling me, it’s probably important and not just checking on me or calling because they are bored.

19 Kelly { 09.02.13 at 2:11 am }

It makes me crazy when people pick up to tell me they can’t talk! I totally agree – just don’t answer, and by not answering I will know that you can’t talk.

In a related kind of topic, since it involves cell phones, it also makes me batty if I misdial a number and then realize it and hang up, only to have the person call me back. “Yeah, you just called me.” Why would you call me back if I didn’t leave a message? People are weird!

That is all!

20 a { 09.02.13 at 8:47 am }

The only time I do this is for my husband…he calls, and I assume it’s for a specific purpose that I might be able to accomplish in a short amount of time. Then he wants to chat about nothing, so I have to tell him that I’m busy and will talk to him later.

Mostly, I don’t get any phone calls, so it’s not really an issue. I tend to do most things via text. I also don’t make many phone calls, so I don’t run into people doing this to me.

21 a { 09.02.13 at 8:49 am }

Oh, and for the immediate call back while you’re leaving a message – I do that frequently (well, relatively speaking anyway) due to my super-crappy cell phone service. Sometimes my phone doesn’t ring long enough for me to be able to find the phone and pick it up before it goes to voice mail, so I call right back. I used to do that to my mom all the time.

22 Gail { 09.03.13 at 9:56 am }

I only answer the phone every time a very select few people call. Namely, my husband although other people are sometimes added to the list. I want them to know that I saw the call come in, check if it is an emergency and, if not, I’ll call them back when I have a minute, but they can text me.
The rest of the world, I don’t feel a need to answer the phone just because it rings.

23 JustHeather { 09.03.13 at 2:28 pm }

We don’t own a home phone and haven’t for…year! Way too expensive here. Mobile phones are much cheaper.
I almost always pick up the phone when someone calls. Especially if it is a blocked number, because when my family calls from the US it is blocked and it could be an emergency (like when my mom died).

While it can be a bit annoying to have someone answer when they don’t have time to talk, I don’t mind really. I also don’t mind if they don’t answer if they don’t have time. That’s what voicemail/texts/email/FB/etc are for. I don’t have voice mail and can’t stand leaving messages, but will sometimes. The world has changed, we need to change with it.

24 deathstar { 09.03.13 at 4:57 pm }

I am in and out of the house quite a bit. For some reason, hubby and I can’t get the voicemail activated on our home phone, so if I’m not in, most people call my cell. If I’m home, I always answer the phone – unless I see on the call display some number that indicates it could be a solicitor of some sort. I always answer my cell unless of course, once again it is one of those ass robot/spam calls. Truly, we will probably get rid of our home phone. The only reason we have it is that everyone over the age of 60 prefers to call us at home. Or the odd call from my uncle in England. If I am driving or do not have time to talk, I don’t answer it, it can go to voicemail.

25 Brian C { 01.05.14 at 1:36 pm }

People pick up and say they can’t talk now because……There’s a lot of people out there that will hang up on the voicemail, and hit redial repeadadly, until they answer. Happens to me DAILY. Usually when i’m trying to get ready for work.It’s annoying.(shaving,showering, etc).Then they wonder why i’m on Valium.
Even better, is when they DO leave a message, and say they know i’m home, because they’ve been trying to call for HOURS, and the phones been busy. THE WHOLE TIME, IT WAS THE SLEW OF OTHER PEOPLE CALLING AND HANGING UP, that made the phone busy !

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