Since mobile phones became a body-part (meaning, just about every adult in the modern world has one,) expectations and etiquette of person-to-person communications have changed drastically. Now that “everyone” has a phone in the palm of their hand for HOURS every day, some people have turned into Pavlov’s dogs – they feel that they MUST answer a ringing phone, regardless of their current situation. STOP IT!
The overwhelming majority of phone calls are not life-or-death. And they’re not ‘the radio station calls your house once to give you a million dollars.’ Most (non-business) phone calls are just casual conversation. Which means that your current situation is probably more important than whatever you’re doing at the moment the phone rings… and it’s LIKELY that the person you’re face-to-face with IS more important than whoever is calling you. Of course, this ASSumes that you have caller-id / contacts in your phone to show you who is ringing your phone. That means that you KNOW who is calling you.
The point of this article is this… if you’re busy: having a meal with someone; in the middle of a conversation; driving while trying to maneuver or otherwise pay attention to heavy traffic; in the middle of your favorite TV show; in the bathroom; in a meeting; getting ready to walk into a meeting; have active fire cooking something (BBQ, stove-top, etc.); washing the car; have just cut off a finger – DON’T ANSWER THE PHONE! There is NO legal or moral requirement to answer a ringing phone! Why? Because voicemail. Because txt messaging. Because if it’s actually an emergency, or even just “urgent”, the person calling WILL call you back or txt you right away.
Yes, this is a pet-peeve, but seriously, I don’t need you to answer the phone to tell me you’re busy right now. And anyone over the age of 35 certainly knows how answering machines and voicemail works – there’s an automated message that tells the caller FOR YOU, that you’re busy. Sure, it’s nice to know that some people will answer YOUR call, no matter what you’re doing, but most of the time, it’s not for anything important. Of course, I’m not talking about children calling parents, or caretakers, or doctors answering calls from the hospital. I’m talking about Friend 1 and Friend 2 who talk once or twice a week already. If you’re busy, DON’T ANSWER THE PHONE!
The secondary point of this rant, is the etiquette. If you are eating a meal with someone else… or just in the middle of a conversation… or helping them solve a problem… or if you are just sick/not feeling well – it’s rude to both parties – the person you’re with, AND the person who is calling you. Why? Because you have just told the person you’re with that some random person who is NOT calling with an emergency is more important to you than they are… and when you answer the phone to tell the caller that you’re busy, you’ve created a small level of ‘false hope’ that you ARE available to talk, simply because you answered the phone. Telling a caller that you can’t talk right now, is just as rude as saying “You’re not important right now. I’ll get back to you when something else is less important.” Etiquette.
In summary: Live in the moment. Focus on what you’re doing right now. Don’t be one of Pavlov’s dogs.