Should you pick up the phone when you have company? If so, how do you handle the phone call?

by Gail
(Manassas, Virginia)

My brother called to ask me how I was doing, as I had been recently sick. I had company at the time, so I told him I was feeling better, but couldn't speak at the time since I had company and could I call him back when my company left the same evening. He was outraged. He said I was rude, dismissive and shouldn't have picked up the phone at all. How should I have handled the situation?

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To Answer or Not to Answer ...
by: Miss P Etiquette

Hello Gail~

First, I hope you are completely well again and enjoying life.

Now to your question which I interpret as, "Should I answer my phone when I am engaged with company?".

There is no one answer to this situation. However, it is easiest to ignore the phone when you are with others and to return the call when you have privacy. It is also most polite to give your attention to those in front of you instead to someone calling on the phone. It is rude to answer the phone in front of others if it can be avoided.

Of course, there are always exceptions, i.e. if you are waiting for an important call. In that case, you should let your company know ahead of time that you may be interrupted.

A phone call is an unsolicited interruption and, treated as such, is not a priority. Your brother sounds as if his feelings were hurt, perhaps because of his worry about your condition. Nevertheless, his reaction to your simple request is a bit over the top. I do not agree that your behavior was rude and/or dismissive. You tried to do the right thing, which was also the practical and polite behavior. In the case of his call, you would have been better of not answering at all. This is another good reason to give your undivided attention to those at hand and let the phone ring.

Kind regards,

Ms Practical Manners

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