Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Hello, Who Is This Please?

Here's a parenting gripe for a change of pace.

I'm totally torn between "It takes a village to raise a child" and "You can't raise your neighbor's children".

When did it become out of fashion to introduce yourself when calling somebody on the phone? In the days before Caller ID, it was truly confusing. Now it is merely RUDE.

As my dear daughter barrels towards her teen years - (you remember: the ones where you chatter incessantly to your friends all day long in school, run home, and immediately dash to the phone to call them up again) - our phone has been getting quite a workout.
Unfortunately, telephone manners are somewhat lacking.

RING RING
Me: "Hello"
Caller: " 'z Jennifer there?"

Now, here's where my dilemma begins. "Who's calling please?" seems a bit trite, because I have Caller ID and often know exactly which young friend has not learned the appropriate, "Hello, this is ____, may I please speak with Jennifer?".

Upon closer examination, I realized that the problem is twofold. This, once standard pleasantry served the dual purpose of not only identifying the caller, but also as a greeting to the person who answered the phone. After all, if a young girl came to the door and I answered it, would she merely barrel past me without a "Hello"? I doubt that.

Any suggestions from the peanut gallery?

(Oh and remember.... it can't involve anything that might embarrass my sensitive pre-teen daughter.... like breathing.....)


18 comments:

tesyaa said...

I always pretend I don't have Caller ID and ask who it is. In fact, on two of our phones the display is broken so it really is like I don't have caller ID.

Michael Westen said...

Best method I've heard (from my uncle): Ask who is calling. Then, holding phone away from self, alert daughter of phone call by exclaiming "Hello, this is X, is Jennifer there!?"

G6 said...

OK Michael...
That is totally awesome!!!
I'm afraid that my daughter might disagree with you though... as that falls into the category of breathing :D

efrex said...

The standard appropriate telephone greeting of "Hi, this is x" has been going the way of the dodo for the better part of two decades now, based on my own informal experience. I can reluctantly accept that, but the bile still rises whenever someone asks me to identify myself when I pick up the phone.

On the practical level, a "who should I say is calling?" is absolutely appropriate (nit-picky grammarian types should feel free to substitute "whom" for "who" in the above sentence). Caller ID is not infallible (people do use each other's phones), and it just might inspire the offender to identify him/herself next time (why yes, I do have an overblown sense perpetual optimism and hope in humanity; why do you ask?)

I do not have my Miss Manners guides at hand, but it seems to me that it is only necessary to greet the person who answers the phone (beyond the self-identification) if, in fact, you have some relationship with the person.

As for not embarrassing the children: you're on your own there.

Something Different said...

My brother (a yeshivah bochur who calls all of his friends by their last names) has a friend that he's scared to call. If the mother picks up, and he says "Is Goldberg there?" She gives him such a speech about it.
He learned how to ask properly though. ;-)

G6 said...

SD -
That would be an easy one for me. I'd simply say, "This is Mrs. Goldberg! How nice of you to call me!!"
As an aside, you humorous comment reminded me of a friend of my son's who went exclusively by his last name and referred to all his friend's likewise. Do you know that until this VERY DAY, over a decade later, I'm still not sure what his first name is?? (I wonder if he is...)

Something Different said...

You think that's bad?? I once asked my brother what "cohen's" (his really good friend) name is, and he said he doesn't know! O_O

hadassahsabo said...

with 4 yeshiva boys in the house we have many kids that call up and ask for my kids by last name. I always ask "May I ask who is calling", and which one of the boys he wants to speak with. 8/10 they will say the one in Grade X. First names don't exist. but that's boys. (saying it with strong British accent works here lol)

with girls, i would still ask, who is calling. who cares if caller ID works or not? the other day a kid called my kid, the caller ID showed a foreign name that i didn't understand. he was using his babysitters phone...

hadassahsabo said...

*Understand - should have been recognize...to much multitasking

ProfK said...

I always ask "who is speaking?" when the caller doesn't identify him or her self. Caller ID doesn't tell you if someone else is borrowing that person's phone or even which member of a family might be a user of that number. And if someone decides to be cute and not identify themselves or try and play a guessing game with me, I hang up. Cures them fairly quickly of that habit.

Yehudah said...

My mother always taught me to say "Hello, this is ______, may I please speak to..."

I think you have every right to ask the person to identify himself/herself. If you know the person's parents well and know they wouldn't get insulted (some more modern parents might), I think you should feel comfortable to teach them a lesson in ettiquette (spelling?) as well.

Anonymous said...

I agree that children should be taught to say "hello this is-- may I please speak with.."(and even a how are you-but that might be asking TOO much). The next time you ask who it is say "Oh, Leah! It's great to hear from you. Make sure you always tell me your name when you call because I love saying hello to Jen's friends!" Anything more and you will have a pre-teen burying her head under her pillow.

Pesky Settler said...

Here in Israel, it is quite common to receive a phone call and you get a "who is this?"

My standard response to this rudeness is "well YOU called ME. Who are YOU and who do you want to speak to?"

The few times I heard my daughters do this, I set them straight...

Anonymous said...

Someone just posed a question (along the same lines) to me a few weeks ago. He/She is a teacher and called a student's parent from his/her cell phone. No one answered but,later that night he/she recieved a call on his/her cell phone from that parent. They thought it was comletely rude and the parent should know better. What do you think?

G6 said...

Interesting question Anonymous -
but I'd have to be dan lekaf zechus on this one.
a) If the parent had caller ID and knew it was the teacher, perhaps he/she was being a conscientious partner in the child's education
b) If the identity of the caller was unknown to the parent - granted it is probably not the norm to call back unrecognized numbers, but I suppose that some people do that.
I personally don't think it was rude if that was the question...

Anonymous said...

I, personally, did not find anything wrong with it but, boy! was I corrected by this teacher friend of mine (you will never find me doing that from now on! And on phone etiquette, I teach every oneof my children to say,"Hi! It's (First name, Last name), How are you? May I please speak to (First name)? Thank you!"

perlsand said...

I absolutely DETESTED when my (very yekkish)mother always asked who it was if my friends didn't i.d. themselves to her and I think that was a major reason my sister and I saved up for our own line in high school. She insisted we go thru the whole shpiel when callimg our friends-"hello, Mrs.______, this is ______ speaking-may I please speak with ______?" I would get an extra point for adding an "how are you" to that and by the time my friend came to the phone, I was all talked out! But on a serious note, I NEVER ask my kid's friends who they are because I am still traumatized by those memories. I admit that these rules tend to be laxer in Israel, where I live and I'm glad for that. What's important to me is that my kids are generally polite to their elders and this is proven to me time and time again. Those of you out there with that strict yekkish upbringing, loosen up a bit!

G6 said...

Perlsand -
It's interesting that you perceive this as a "Yekkish" and "uptight" thing that requires loosening up. When you make a call nowadays as an adult, do you not introduce yourself? I think this is a "social norms" thing, not a "Yekkish" thing at all.
As an aside, I completely agree with you that overall behavior of children is more important that picking on one uncomfortable action.
I also agree on trying not to repeat the trauma-inducing mistakes in our own upbringings, but am fully aware that we just create different ones ;)