The Gentleman's Guide to Mastering Phone Etiquette

Phone etiquette used to be a crucial part of a gentleman’s education. You would learn how to speak on the phone to callers, how to answer and sign off properly, and when to call and when not to call. There was an art to it!

Today, phones are more advanced than ever. We’re carrying computing powerhouses in our pockets capable of far more than just making calls. Somehow, phone etiquette hasn’t seemed to have caught up with the advances in our technology. While our lives are more convenient and connected than ever, there are professional and personal dangers that come along with our devices.

If you want to guard your reputation, you and I would both do well to brush up on 21st-century phone etiquette.


21st Century Phone Etiquette for Modern Gentlemen

Speak clearly & intentionally.

While it might be obvious to say, phone conversations just aren’t like speaking face-to-face. Sometimes the signal isn’t great or the volume is limited. The other party might be fighting to hear against noise or their natural hearing might not be so good. It’s always a point of courtesy to speak a little louder, more slowly, and more intentionally than you usually would just for the sake of the person you’re talking to. This is especially true if you know you tend to speak quickly! 

Eliminate distractions.

It’s not just the person on the other end of the line you need to consider. You may have a difficult time hearing as well, and there’s nothing more exasperating than having to ask or being asked to repeat something time and time again. The best thing you can do is mitigate distractions. Go to a quiet place, shut doors, and find as much privacy as you can. You will have a better time not only hearing, but focusing on the call.

Keep calls brief when in public.

Phone etiquette is not contained to just the people on the phone. We also have to be mindful of the people around us! When in public places, it’s best to keep our phone conversations short. Both hearing one side of a conversation and hearing the full call through speaker phone is intrusive and grating. No one wants to suffer through someone else’s conversation for an extended amount of time, and it’s especially true of a phone call.

Don’t rely on texting.

With the modern phone, came the advent of text messaging. We also have the option of using apps like Facebook messenger. While these are wonderful conveniences, they can be cold and impersonal. Instead of relying on text messages to converse, we should use them only sparingly. Our first instinct should be to talk to people face-to-face, then call, and then message.

Respect privacy.

Today, phone etiquette extends beyond phone calls. There are also issues of photos and videos. When there are platforms out there like Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook Live, and Youtube, it’s easier than ever to post content that involves the people around us. It’s common courtesy to ask before posting images or videos that include other people. You don’t want to violate someone’s privacy by posting something that they don’t want out there for public consumption. 

Prioritize the people you’re with.

A connection to technology can be valuable, but not at the expense of the people we’re actually near. For us, it’s much more important to prioritize the people around us. It’s so important for our relationships, old and new, to leave our phones behind. At dinner, in meetings, in everyday conversations: don’t pick up the phone. Calls can wait and checking social media can definitely wait. If you find yourself unable to leave your phone alone for the duration of a meal, you might have a technology addiction!

Leave a message.

Sometimes it seems easier to call back later instead of leaving a message when you can’t get ahold of someone, but consider this: isn’t it annoying to see a missed call but not know why they called you? If you call and no one picks up, leave a message. Consider the person you’re calling when considering the type of message to leave as well. An older person will likely prefer a voicemail, while a younger individual will be more pleased by a follow-up text.


Navigating modern phone etiquette isn't always easy and it doesn't come naturally to a lot of us. The important thing to remember is this: prioritize other people. Put their comfort and convenience and your relationship with them first.

If you keep that at top-of-mind, everything else will fall into place.

What do you think is the biggest modern phone faux-pas? Let me know in the comments.