Last Monday, I wanted to ask a question to my cousin and decided to phone her. I called her once and she didn't answer so I decided to try a second time right after my first attempt. When she finally answered, she told me that she was in a meeting but decided to answer me anyway.

She usually works from home on Monday and I had no idea she was in a meeting. I'm afraid that me deciding to call her twice has prompt her to answer because she thought it was important when it wasn't. She didn't say such a thing so I believe that calling twice is fine. However, I do believe that trying a third time without waiting, at least, one hour would have been too much.

This got me thinking, is there some etiquette regarding the number of time one should try calling someone else if it's not for an emergency? And how long you should wait between each call?

I'm from France but I believe that there might be some cultural differences that I'm also interested in.

I just wanted to ask her if she would join me for pizza on Wednesday.

  • 3
    Any reason not to leave a short text to ask her to call you back once she has time? Nov 15, 2018 at 7:13
  • @XtremeBaumer Because I wanted to have the answer now and thought she just didn't hear her phone.
    – Ael
    Nov 15, 2018 at 7:21
  • Would have been forced to retract your invitation or considered making other plans if your cousin hadn't called back so soon? Urgency vs. convenience might be a factor in any answers.
    – user8671
    Nov 15, 2018 at 8:24
  • @Kozaky I don't know, I don't like making plan of the day for the next day and her not calling back soon would have caused me some anxiety.
    – Ael
    Nov 15, 2018 at 17:50

4 Answers 4


It all depends on whom and how you are calling someone. If you're calling a private landline, then there is a possibility that people didn't hear it as they may be in another room. A company phone being unanswered usually means there is no one around to pick it up.

With cell phones I ALWAYS assume that the person chose to not answer my phone call because of various reasons, but the result is that they cannot TALK with me. So I follow with a message "I called to talk about this-and-that. Call me back when you have the time or just write back". Because it's easier to write an answer (via sms, email, whatsapp, hangouts, slack or whatever) than talk on the phone.

I never call q second time just after first one. If the person didn't hear the phone ringing, why would they hear it five seconds later? If they left their phone somewhere, how would they answer it five seconds later? If they didn't answer in time, they WILL call me back right away.

As your cousin does, I assume that if someone calls me over and over, it's urgent. Because if it isn't, why can't they wait 10 minutes? (to give me time to write a message "I'm in a meeting/Can't talk right now/I'm in cinema; can I call you back in two hours")

  • 1
    I think the time you are calling makes a difference as well, if you are calling during regular working hours (8-5) they are more likely to be busy
    – BKlassen
    Nov 15, 2018 at 17:13

Though, there is no written etiquette regarding the number of times one should try calling or wait for certain time period during each subsequent call. However, there is a procedure I usually follow.

I try to call that person 2 times unless they pick the phone. I try calling them the second time as they might have been away from the phone and couldn't hear the ring. But before this, I wait for two minutes in case they heard the ring but couldn't pick the phone in time.

If it is the latter case, they will call me back. If it is former, then I call them again. In case they don't pick the phone this time, I will leave a text via any communication channel available like voicemail, FB, WhatsApp etc.

Leave a message something like,

I tried to call you without success. I was asking about [xyz]. Can you give me a call or text me back when you have the time?

Then I wait for an hour or so. If they respond to the text, then I've my answer. In case I don't, I wait for at least an hour and then give a call. At this point, I do not call them again for two-three hours as they might be too busy and can't pick the phone or ignoring me.

You should check the time you're calling them at. If they're at work, they could be busy. So try calling them during their break times if you know. If they are partying, they can't hear the ring due to noise. There can be other similar reasons. In your case she was in meeting but you didn't know so that's fine.

Whether they will call you back or not depends on where you are on their priority list. If you're in top priority, they will call you back soon and if you're not, you will have to call them back because they won't.

But in the end, patience is virtue.

From this article

Patience is a virtue. If you have a friend, family member, employee or co-worker who usually responds to your voicemails and texts, then there's probably a good reason why he/she doesn't answer. Before freaking out, panicking, getting mad, or sulking, consider the different possibilities. Consider all the times you had circumstances where you were not able to respond to others. If your friend or family member is tried and true considerate with returning calls and texts, trust that there is a good reason.

If you have a friend or family member who habitually doesn't respond to phone calls, voice mails, and sometimes texts, well then, there you go. They're not reliable.


I'm from France but I believe that there might be some cultural differences that I'm also interested in.

My knowledge of French culture and etiquette is limited - I'm UK based so this is from a UK perspective (hope it's still useful!)

There's no hard and fast rule on this - but for what it's worth I (and most people I know) would treat a second repeated call straight away as an indicator that it was an urgent matter (certainly that it was more urgent than dinner plans for later in the week)

her not calling back soon would have caused me some anxiety

I get this, I really do - I'd probably have felt the same way. However doing what you did is a big no-no as an anxious person for three reasons:

  1. You're making your anxiety someone else's problem, I've got some wonderful friends who do their best to accommodate my anxiety but that doesn't come at zero effort for them and it would be an abuse of their good will for me to effectively make demands that they immediately drop whatever they are doing in order to minimise my anxiety in every situation. I don't get to unilaterally decide that my anxiety takes precedence at all times.

  2. Consider that you are possibly causing them anxiety in the process of trying to avert your own. Speaking as someone with pretty severe anxiety issues myself had I been your cousin and I received two back to back calls like that during the work day I would likely have started catastrophizing about the reason for the calls (Argh.. has Noon had an accident? Are they okay? Has someone else had an accident??? Argh!!)

  3. You're providing potential fuel for your own anxiety - if she hadn't answered the second time would you have been more or less anxious than at one missed call? (Argh! My cousin hasn't answered two of my calls! Is she okay? Has she had an accident? Is she ignoring me? Does she hate me now??? Argh!)

She usually works from home on Monday

Just because someone is working from home doesn't mean they are going to be free to answer a personal call, they could be in the middle of a complex task, or a conference call over Skype or whatever. I'm inferring from your post that had she been working in the office you wouldn't have made the repeat call - a good rule of thumb is that unless you definitively know it to be otherwise treat someone working at home the same as if they were working in an office.

What I'd suggest doing differently

In future for calls of a similar nature - I'd suggest that if you don't get an answer to an initial call the appropriate thing to do is to send a text with the query. This neatly covers most scenarios where they didn't answer - if it was (as you presumed) a case of them not hearing the call but they are otherwise free you are not only giving them a second opportunity to hear the phone but even if they don't (say they were making a coffee or something) then the chances are good they will see the message relatively soon and be able to reply with minimum disruption to you both.

If they aren't free then you are giving them the opportunity to respond as soon as they are (and avoid phone tennis should you not be free when they are). You are also allowing them to make a judgement on the relative urgency of the request vs what they are doing at the time. If I get a text about dinner plans and I'm just working then I'll reply relatively quickly, if I'm in a meeting I'll wait until I'm out of it or there's a natural break.

You're also clearly sending the acknowledgement that they are a person with their own concerns and schedule and that you are respecting that whatever they are doing at that moment can legitimately take priority over your objectively low-urgency query.

This also means that in situations where there is a very real urgent need for them to answer that they can have a reasonable expectation that back-to-back calls may be an indicator of that and they can respond accordingly - and taking a call in a meeting is one of those things that they may consider worth doing if it's urgent. If too much of a precedent is set that the call could as easily be about dinner plans for two days hence as a broken leg then you risk them assuming the former and missing the latter.


I am French and I grow up as a child/teenager as a time where there were only landlines available. And cellphones became widespread when I was at university.

For me, calling twice in a row would mean that someone really wants or needs to contact me, and I would assume it is an urgent matter. I would be quite annoyed to learn it was just for a pizza, or any petty matter.

I think one sufficiently long call is enough for non-urgent calls. If the person you are calling don't answer, there are mostly two reasons:

  1. they didn't hear their phone or were far from it. Calling again would only help in the former case.

  2. They didn't want to answer for any reason (busy,...).

In both cases, I think you have the following options:

  1. Note that many landline phones in France come with an answering machine or a voicemail. That's a good idea to use it since it will give you the exact same effect as you initial call: giving the information about the pizza party. If you need the opinion of the other person, you can use the voice message to ask for them to call you back when they see fit, or warn you will call again. If no answering machine or voicemail is available on their phone, they will probably be notified of your call, so they can call you back when they have an opportunity to do so.

  2. If no answering machine or voicemail is available, modern technology gave us many options to convey information: text message, mail, instant messenger, Facebook,... As there was no urgent reason for your call, it is a fine way to convey the information you want and let the other person the freedom to choose when to answer you.

  3. If you used the methods above, you can call again later.

I'm afraid that me deciding to call her twice has prompt her to answer because she thought it was important when it wasn't. She didn't say such a thing so I believe that calling twice is fine.

I think you would probably do better by quickly apologizing at the beginning of the second call. There is a nonnegligible possibility that you bothered her, and assuming other people's feeling is not a good idea. No need to say too much,

Sorry to bother you, but do you want to go for a pizza on Wednesday?


I hope I am not bothering you. Do you want to go for a pizza on Wednesday?

should suffice. Make a small break after the "bothering you" part, so that the other person has an opportunity to speak if it is the case.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.