Saturday, September 4, 2010
There once was a time in the not so distant past when the average telephone call was a complete surprise. We never knew who was calling and there were no answering machines to tell us either. The phone could ring incessantly until someone answered. People answered it just to get the ringing to stop.
I call this the conditioning time. Pavlov, a well known psychologist, learned that dogs could be trained to salivate at the ring of a bell by offering food each time a bell was rung. After the period of conditioning, anytime a bell rang, the dog automatically salivated.
Nowadays the telephone companies have come up with ingenious ways for us to manage our own time so we are not 'dogs' to the modern conveniences that we 'need.' We have voice mail, caller id, and volume control at our disposal for screening, thus managing our time better. Unfortunately, many still have not gone past the original training that occurred of answering the phone as soon as it rings. We are anxious to know who is at the other end regardless of whether we have caller id or voice mail. The phone becomes the boss or rather the bell that makes us salivate.
Too many times I have been in the presence of others and their phone (cell or home) has rung and they literally JUMP to answer even though we may be engrossed in conversation. The pull of answering the phone is overwhelmingly strong and their will is defeated. It becomes a rather unlaughable joke to see how people have been conditioned to respond to the ringing of the phone.
It was just recently that I went to someone's door to deliver something and as we were talking, his phone rang. He quickly disappeared to answer it (as if I were not important) and reappeared with the phone in his ear, indicating that the caller (of which the conversation was obviously small talk) was more important than me. I was scooted off so that he could carry on with his phone friend.
I can understand when you are awaiting a very important call, like a doctor's office or your spouse, but answering the phone in the midst of a conversation with a live body in front of you, is just plain rude! What better form of communication then to have the whole person in front of you full of expression and body language that can communicate more than just the sound of a voice through a tiny speaker. Which is not to say that I haven't used that method of communicating to someone that I no longer wish to have them at my front door. hmmmmmm!!
The worst mistake the phone companies made was introducing 'call waiting' or as I've heard it referred to, 'call annoying.' I used to have this and found it so annoying to have to listen to a tone while I was on a call with someone. It not only distracted me from wondering who it was, but also caused a pause in the phone that the other party would hear as a momentary silence. I rarely answered it and eventually discontinued it altogether. However, there are still those who use it incessently. The call comes in and BOOM, they immediately tell you to 'hold on' for a moment. If you're one of those people, let me warn you that I hang up as soon as I'm put on hold, unless you tell me it's an urgent call coming in, in which case i'll tell you to just call me later. I find it offensive to be put on hold to take another call.
I also find it very distracting when a person takes my call when they are on the phone with their mother who lives in Uganda! Why answer the call waiting when you are on what obviously is a very important call?
How about this one....You call a friend and she answers only to tell you that she's at the checkout of a store and will call you back later. Did she forget about the voice mail feature on her phone? I do know how to leave a message!
I have my phone system trained perfectly. I turn the phone ringers off and the answering machine volume low. My machine tells callers the hours that I do not answer calls (which is most of the time). Then if I am on the phone and another call comes in, it goes straight to my cell phone and that voice mail picks it up. If I am expecting an important call, I can still answer it. I also am known to use the mute button on my cell phone when it rings and I am in conversation with someone. It's my time and no one else's. I also highly respect someone else's time if they are expecting my undivided attention.
To those of you who are led to answer the phone at inappropriate times, I give this advice..............DON'T DO IT!!!!!!!!!
Let the many modern conveniences of the phone companies do their thing. Check the caller ID. Let the voice mail catch it. Screen your calls. Manage your time. Don't let the phone manage you! Respect those around you by being in the moment, not on the phone.