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My grandmother has wonderful taste. You can see this in her classy dressing, her beautifully designed home, and in particular, her manners. She has always been excellent at teaching her grandkids how to behave themselves in a modest, appropriate way whether at the dinner table or when interacting with customers at her furniture store. I feel so blessed to have gotten the phone etiquette lessons from her, as these are skills I have used over and over.
Now, it’s time for me to teach my own kids about how to answer the phone or door. It’s a little different since we do not have a landline, and I probably won’t be supplying them with phones of their own any time soon. But, I want them to know how to politely and discreetly talk with strangers or loved-ones over the phone. Here are a few guidelines about answering phones or doors to help us instruct our children on these nearly-lost arts of etiquette.
Pick a Standard Phone Greeting
Some families like to identify their name or household name when answering the phone. This is super classy, but you may not feel comfortable giving that information before you know who is calling. So, simply saying, “Hello” in a pleasant, friendly voice invites the caller to begin to introduce himself or herself and their business.
Ask the Caller to Identify Himself or Herself
If the caller does not immediately state her or his name, the child can ask. “May I ask who is calling?” is a polite way to get that information whether the caller has requested to speak to “Mom or Dad,” any other member of the family, or even the person who has answered the phone. Try to help your child understand that they need to listen to and remember the caller’s name.
Avoid Stating Whether The Person Asked For Is Home Or Not
It is not the business of the caller to know whether Mom or Dad is at home. If the caller asks this, however, the child can start with finding out who the caller is and stating, “Let me see if he or she is available.” Then, the child is to put the phone down or on mute and find out if the person the caller wants to speak with really is available or not. This is not the time to yell out, “Mom! The phone is for you!” Instead, instruct your child to go in person and in a normal speaking voice tell Mom or Dad (or whomever) that so-and-so is on the phone to speak with them.
It is important that the child doesn’t share information about who is home and who is not. If the person is not home or is otherwise engaged, the child can tell the caller, “I’m sorry. That person is not available to come to the phone right now.”
Make Sure They Ask To Take A Message
After stating that the requested individual is unavailable, the child can then ask to take a message from the caller. Teach your child to find a pen and paper (or have a designated spot for this task near the phone) and to write down the caller’s name and phone number and any brief message. Then, your child is obligated to put the message in a place where the intended recipient can easily find it and respond if they choose.
At the Door
For young children, you may want to avoid having them answer the door altogether. But as children mature, help them understand how to politely and safely answer the door. Depending on your area, you may want to teach them to look through the peep hole or window before answering the door and only to answer when the child knows the individual. You may instead prefer that the child peer through the peep hole and then report to you whether they do or do not know who is knocking at the door.
If you have given permission for the child to open the door, then, they can be taught to open the door and say, “Hello, how may I help you?” to service or delivery visitors or “Hello, and welcome” to expected (or unexpected) guests.
Open the Door
When the person is an expected guest or friend, you can teach your child to welcome them into the sitting room or to come into the entryway of the home and ask them to wait a moment while they come and get you or the person they are expecting to see. For close friends, your child can be taught to invite the person into the home and take a seat or even offer to take their coat and get them something to drink.
For less intimate acquaintances or service calls, you can help your kids understand that these people are to identify themselves first and then the door can be closed while the individual remains on the outside porch as the child goes to find Mom or Dad to decide whether to invite the person inside.
Practice and Role-Play to Gain Confidence
Role-play with your children to help them avoid the common pitfalls of phone and door answering like shouting for someone to come to the door or phone and forgetting to take down a message. With sufficient practice, your kids can confidently answer calls in a safe and polite way.