Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Returning Phone Calls

I am usually very good at returning phone calls, whether they are personal or professional.  In the professional setting I try to return phone calls within 48 business hours, but really, much sooner. I think that is important.

On a personal note, I "lived" with my cell phone for a period of 6 to 8 years, for various reasons.  After my mother died, it did not seem as important to me to live with my phone.  I often leave it behind, or once I turn it off, it stays off for days, or I forget to check it for voicemail messages.
I am not trying to be rude about phone calls.  I am just not that connected right now.

One of my uncles did not have a telephone for a long time. And when he finally did, long before the days of answering machines, his philosophy was that the phone was for his convenience.  So, he only answered it when it was convenient to him.  He also said if someone wanted to speak to him seriously enough, that person would call back.  I tend to agree. For a long time, I answered the phone as soon as I could. I finally learned that I could let the phone ring for a while, or not answer it as all, as I wanted.

However, once we have moved into the world of answering machines, voicemail or message takers, once a message is left, my thinking is that the recipient has an obligation to respond. My reasoning is that if you have made yourself available to hear messages, then you have an obligation to respond to those messages appropriately.  And, I realize that there are some messages that are unsolicited, or do not require a response for various reasons. Having said that, I have often used answering machines or voice messaging as call screening. But, I do not ignore phone calls.

In a professional setting, I think that responding to phone calls is important.  I think it gives an indication of the professionalism of the recipient.  It gives an indication of how respectful people are of other people. It says "you are important."

I realize that people are very busy and can not always respond immediately to phone calls. And some professionals set aside certain times to make and return phone calls. Which means that phone calls may not be returned immediately. But professionals who do not return phone calls in a timely way send a message to me:  I have to wonder if they think they are too important to be bothered with me.  I have to wonder if they think they are more important than I am. I have to   wonder if they are serious about wanting to interact with me. I have to wonder if they are reliable.

On a personal level, I want to return phone calls to family and friends to stay connected. For personal business, of course I need to enter into dialogue so returning phone calls  is important. And certainly, on a professional level, I want to project a sincere image of being interested, engaged, and concerned and therefore, responding appropriately to phone calls.

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