Do You Answer Every Call on Your Cell, All the Time

It’s a loaded question. To make things simpler, I will answer first.
I don’t pick up every call and definitely not all the time.
Firstly, I don’t pick up unknown numbers. I have an address book of around 2500 numbers and if the number doesn’t match, it’s probably not worth the effort and I let it go to voicemail. In any case, if it is that important, I assume the person will send an SMS or email. Most doctors, lawyers and managers I know do not pick up unknown numbers.
Secondly, I don’t pick up calls during dinnertime with family. I sleep early and don’t pick up calls after 9.30PM. My phone is on silent or off during meetings or when I need to focus at work or when I am with customers. I also don’t pick up when I am out with someone for coffee, lunch or dinner…unless the other person is impolite and rude and keeps making or taking calls, in which case my attitude is “if you don’t value the time we are spending together, screw you. I can then also behave like you.”
I use voicemail and SMS extensively. Both are non-intrusive and allow me to get back to people at my own pace.
Why am I bringing this up?
A few weeks ago, one reader wrote in to say how overwhelmed he was with the amount of emails and calls he had to handle, including at 2.00AM at night. I argued with him that unless his work involved staying up at night or he was a doctor or an emergency worker who was on call, nothing could be so urgent or important that it couldn’t wait for a few hours.
You don’t need to pick up the phone each time it rings. Don’t get me wrong. It does not mean that you don’t respond. It just means that you get back at your own time.
Not everyone agrees.
My wife tries to respond immediately to all calls, including unknowns, once she has left her workplace, simply because she does not want to miss a possible emergency call related to the kids or our parents. My father answers all calls as well, including at dinnertime, because that’s how it’s always been for most people of his generation, who have lived through a time when all landline calls were important (telemarketers didn’t exist) and since you never knew who was calling (caller ID is a recent phenomenon), each call had to be picked up come what may.
Today, there are so many ways that people can get in touch that calls at odd times only seem more and more intrusive.
And yet, most people continue to take calls at all times in all situations, without realizing that they are being rude to those around them or that they are only stressing themselves out. Or perhaps they don’t care.
Here are some suggestions. Don’t take calls when having dinner or lunch, with family or friends, at home or in restaurants. Put phones on silent or better still switch them off, during plays, movies and performances and when in meetings. Definitely do not use the phone while driving. And during the day, create some phone downtime by putting cells off, to be able to better focus on the task at hand or to meditate or sleep or whatever.
The world is not going to end, if we don’t take a few calls, as long as we have a system of responding…eventually…when we have the time.

4 Comments

  • Depends on where you are. Just for the sake of argument let’s take a case of a budding actor looking for a break. Would he do the same? While sometimes it could be a bother, I personally would rather endure than to miss out on a friend trying to re-establish contact or a urgent call from my child’s school.

  • I too rush to pick up phones much to the annoyance of my kids. It is a generational thing I suppose.
    James Thurber once decided not to answer calls while working so he did just that. The phone rang and rang but he steeled himself. He was waiting for the person to call all day but no luck. In desperation he put an ad in the newspaper asking the person who had tried him to call!

  • I agree with you, but it is more aplicable when anyone is employee of particular company as it does not matter him a lot to miss important call… as he directly not suffred with if he miss call/opprtunity, but person who run business feel each call can be of clients or by call from person referred by any client or opportunity might calling…

  • Sanket…I agree partly. Even it is a client he/she will call again. And if you have voicemail you will be able to get back anyway within a reasonable time. Jamna aunty…Thurber must have then pushed for the answering machine to be invented.

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