top of page
  • Reverend James Squire

The Ethics and Social Nature of a Phone Call

Please listen carefully as our menu options have changed.

Your call is important to us.

This call is being recorded for quality and training purposes

I had to choose a surgeon for a procedure a few months ago. The surgeon that was referred to me by a physician who I trust was highly regarded in her field. Something else entered into my choice. When I called her office, I was put through directly to one of her staff. I made the choice to use her expertise based on something that never entered my mind at the time. I had direct access to her. That was just as important to me as her medical expertise and skill as a surgeon.

Access is important to me. I have a 24-hour rule. I served in a large school community. If someone emailed me or called, I tried to get back to that individual within 24 hours. This was very important to the people who contacted me so what was important to them became important to me.

One of the things that was an adjustment for me when I retired was that people who didn’t know much about me didn’t get back to me in a timely fashion. I was use to everyone getting back to me very quickly when I would call or email. I was spoiled. I had to make an adjustment in terms of the reverse of previous access issues. One day when I called a surgeon, as Chaplain of a school, I assumed he was in his office. He said that he was just finishing up a surgical procedure and had his resident close. I was shocked. I told him to get back in there. He said the resident is handling it. then he said, “Rev, everybody knows that you never call about the weather.” To this day I am not good about chit chat. I am all business, but am trying to “learn” now to do casual conversation. That sounds strange but true.

Access is still one of the things that still informs a lot of my decisions today. I tell people that I am quirky. Getting back to me in a timely fashion is important. It is now part of my DNA.

The three answering machine responses listed in the title of this post are handled by businesses apart from who you are calling. That is why they all sound the same, but they say something important about conversational style.

If you add the word “please” to any request, it is better received by anyone who is on the receiving end of what you want or need. It softens conversation. It also reflects good manners.

They legally can record your phone call if you stay on the line as the law reads that only one person, in that case you, agrees to be recorded. It is required that banks record your phone call. If you harass a person on the phone, you are in ethical gray land depending on the nature of the harassment if it is recorded.

The message that describes how important the call is to the company or person receiving the call touches on my issue which is also universal. One doesn’t make a random call. Calls have a purpose or why make them even if it is to have casual conversation to connect with someone.

Access is tricky. From an ethical perspective you should be aware of how important it is to you and in what circumstances or with what person. People who take 911 calls are the embodiment of all the good aspects of a call whether it be recorded, important, or the fact that there may not be time to say “please” because of the urgency of the calls.

There is a gender issue here as well. There are some generalizations about conversational style among men and women. Deborah Tannen, a linguist and conversational style authority, supports the notion that women talk more than men particularly on the phone. Men talk to get things done. Women talk to make an emotional connection. Men talk to preserve independence and to gain social status,

When I raised these characteristics in Ethics class both the guys and girls agreed wholeheartedly that the above characteristics were true. However, there is a growing number of research articles that disagree with the premises on the above. They emphasize that these descriptions perpetuate a stereotype. These studies indicated that this generalization is unfortunate that encourages these behaviors to continue.

Two observations that support and do not support the above generalizations. I knew a football coach, a manly man, who would actually have half hour conversations with those dreaded people who make nuisance calls about products that we should want. I also have a woman friend who thinks of things that she is experiencing during her day so that she has topics to bring up at the dinner table with her husband. Otherwise, there would be silence.

When you think about it, those three answering machine statements are about as gender neutral as you could get. It is because men and women both desire easy access to a phone conversation regarding what is important to them.

12 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page