60

This may be a generational thing. I was taught that the caller always identified himself first. The person answering says "hello", to establish that contact has been made, but is under no obligation to identify herself. She is at home, minding her own business, and has been interrupted in what she was doing by the caller. It is the caller's obligation to identify him/herself first.

Caller: Hello, this is ab2. May I speak to yz2, please?

With close friends, who recognize your voice over the phone, one could be a little more informal:

Hi, Mrs. Smith. This is a, may I speak to y, please?

If you were calling from a company or an office, you'd be more formal:

This is ab2 from IBM Corporation. I'd like to talk to yz2 in Quantum Computing.

But the calls I get now, except from close friends, start out by briskly asking me who I am (Note that ab2 is now the callee; above she was the caller):

Is this ab2? I need to talk to ab2.

To which I reply; "Who is this please?"

Frequently the caller will, after a start of surprise, identify him or herself. But some don't. They make another try to get ab2 on the line before giving any information about themselves. They seem to think they are too important and too rushed to waste time talking to someone who is not their target. I will usually make another attempt to find out who the caller is, but if they insistently ask for ab2, I hang up.

I am perfectly content with the way I handle the calls. They are never important. But I am curious as to when and why this home-invasion model of phone calls developed.

15 Answers 15

59

If you are the caller, it's required that you give your introductions unless they are known colleagues and relatives.

From Phone Etiquette by Hiltmon:

It is the caller’s responsibility to ensure the recipient knows exactly who is calling before jumping in to the conversation.

However, if you are the receiver and the caller doesn't introduce himself/herself, then you can say something like,

May I ask who is calling?

Source

If someone refuses to introduce himself/herself or do this rudely, you can ask the reason for calling. If you find that reason suitable, you can talk further else you can tell them to call later.

In the business, telemarketing is the most common way to make people aware about their products and services. And this led to increased calls from anonymous numbers.

To get rid of it, I have availed Do-Not-Disturb service, though not sure if it is available in USA, and if still any call comes, I'd just ask them who they are. If they're not relevant, I usually tell them that I am busy.

  • 12
    In addition, not introducing yourself has the added benefit in keeping telemarketers and the like from pretending they know who they called! I stopped answering phones with my name when the conversation went like "Hello, this is A" "Hello, Miss A, it's good I could reach you...". Telling telemarketers (who have no idea who you are) from actual customer service (who generally HAVE your data!) has become way easier. It just took a while for my Family to accept why I did that. – Layna Aug 28 '17 at 8:01
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    Please do not use them last 4 words unless you actually want to talk to them! Asking them to call back effectively gives them permission to keep calling which is annoying and a waste of both yours and their time if you actually have no intention of talking to them. – Notts90 Aug 28 '17 at 9:20
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    The only exception to this would be if you are calling a place that you own/reside. Example: If I am calling my parents' house and an unfamiliar voice answered, I probably wouldn't identify myself immediately and instead want to know why a stranger was answering my parents' phone. – USER_8675309 Aug 28 '17 at 16:22
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    There is the National Do Not Call Registry in the USA and surprisingly enough, it works really well. – Fixed Point Aug 28 '17 at 19:35
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    Note that "May I ask who's calling" is the more American way to say it. "May I know..." is very Indian. – JPhi1618 Aug 30 '17 at 15:49
21

The caller should identify themselves first.

That is the best approach when calling someone who doesn't know you already or have your name in their contacts. But the recent changes could be because:

New generation people are used to having caller IDs or some apps that can look up numbers and show possible names. Or, being overly busy in a highly competitive world, they skip some pleasantries or cut to the chase.

It might not be received well by most people.

I say this based on my experience. I'm only under 30. I have sometimes forgotten to introduce myself when I call someone, because in my head I was focussed on what I wanted to ask them, and it's not something I recommend.


An exception would be if you're running a business. You would not want to push away potential customers just because they didn't introduce themselves first. You can initiate conversation with: "ab2's business/ab2 speaking. How may I help you?"

  • 2
    In regards to your note at the end: Or better yet, "ab2's business, xy speaking. How may I help you?". This may very well be a cultural thing, but I find it to be a good ice-breaker even when calling a company when the person on the other end at least gives their first name (or however exactly they prefer to be addressed). It can also serve as a good way to prompt the caller to identify themselves, without making the caller feel pressured into doing so. – a CVn Aug 29 '17 at 7:30
  • @MichaelKjörling That I agree. But in this case, "ab2" is the person's name as well. So, perhaps, "ab2's business, ab2 speaking. How may I help you?". Updated answer. – NVZ Aug 29 '17 at 7:31
  • Right, I didn't notice OP's username. So maybe make that "xy company, ab2 speaking" instead. My point remains the same. – a CVn Aug 29 '17 at 7:41
17

In the United States it used to be customary before the proliferation of cell-phones that the caller should immediately introduce themselves.

Today, phone etiquette has evolved with technology. The person that is called can more often than not already see who is calling by looking at the display of their phone (caller ID). This also explains why some callers are surprised when you ask who they are -- they are wondering why you don't know.

Moreover, it is now often expected to pre-arrange a phone (skype, facetime...) call by text-message before actually calling. This is precisely to avoid the sort of "home invasion" calls that you are alluding to. If a call with a certain person is arranged for a certain time, there is (almost) no question who is calling at that time.

Source: Burt Silverman explains how phone etiquette has evolved in this video on the Wall Street Journal's website.

15

(1) Interestingly, points of telephone etiquette regarding order of statements of number-confirmation and self-identification vary across cultures. I have read that in many parts of UK people actually (used to) recite their telephone number as their first response to a phone call, particularly on a land line.

Here in India, when calling a person at home or on their mobile, it is typical to first confirm the call has gone to the right person, and only then identify who is calling. This is related to the small but significant number of calls that can go to the wrong number, in which case people think the caller's identity becomes irrelevant.

[Phone rings. I don't like to pick up phone calls but everyone else is busy]

Me: Hello...

Caller: Hello, is that the house of Dr.K (the Father of English Student)?

Me: yes... who is speaking?

Caller: This is So-and-so speaking, from Car Insurance Unlimited: would you like to extend your car's insurance through our company? We have some nice offers etc etc etc

(2) You are absolutely right in stating that

Frequently the caller will, after a start of surprise, identify him or herself. But some don't. They make another try to get ab2 on the line before giving up any information. They seem to think they are too important and too rushed to waste time talking to someone who is not their target.

We get a number of such calls where the telemarketer has been 'leaked' the number of an apparently important, financially well-off and presumably status conscious person, to whom alone they would have any use of presenting the 'product marketing statement' -- I wonder whether this is what business schools teach them or what? My father who once picked up my mother's phone was strictly told that they want to speak about 'selling to Madam a costly and high-status vehicle' and they want to speak only to my mother!

(3) another common reason that people don't identify themself first is because it gives the person answering the phone a chance and enough information to avoid or deflect the conversation.

Me: Hello...

Caller: Hello, we are calling from a major company building luxurious villas on prime real estate. Is this the house of Dr.K, the Father of English Student?

Me: Sorry. Wrong number.

With due respect to telemarketers worldwide, such situations are annoying only when phone calls are made indiscriminately and the product being marketed is not at all part of our short term plans for the future. For example, the reminder to extend the car insurance is on-topic and much appreciated.

I am aware that cultural practices and expectations are different in the USA, but we have all been evolving into more direct and business-oriented societies: notions of etiquette constantly evolve in accordance with modern culture, and it may no longer be impolite for the caller not to identify themself first, when making a phone call.

  • It does make a difference in many cases, @Patrick Trentin. A person in this town who owes money to many people gave his wife a list of persons who when they called on the phone and introduced themselves the wife would either say 'he is not here' or 'wrong number.' They worked around it by some method, I think -- probably visited his house in person to ask for the loan repayment. – English Student Aug 28 '17 at 10:12
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    Yes indeed, @Patrick Trentin. Phone is no longer a reliable mode of communication (except among family members and close friends) and the widespread random misuse of the medium is part of the reason why etiquette has fallen by the wayside. Email is rapidly going the same way, methinks. – English Student Aug 28 '17 at 10:25
  • The risk with deflecting a cold-sales (or similar) call with "sorry, wrong number" would seem to be that the caller would try calling again, indeed believing that the call was misrouted somehow. – a CVn Aug 29 '17 at 7:34
  • You are right, @Michaek Kjorling, but if the person calls again the 'customer' is already mentally alerted and less likely to make an impulsive decision -- my point was that as a salesperson you want the customer identified and on the line in person before stating the sales message: by self-introducing first the telemarketer can lose the element of surprise that is often said to be an important factor in the success of 'cold sales' marketing. On the other hand, this article discourages random dialling and advises the 'cold caller' to plan ahead: entrepreneur.com/article/224931 – English Student Aug 29 '17 at 8:33
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    "with due respect to telemarketers worldwide" No. They deserve none. The entire field is nothing more than a nuisance. – Our_Benefactors Aug 29 '17 at 16:00
14

In the Netherlands it is quite normal to pick up the phone and immediately answer with "hi, this is [John] speaking, who am I speaking with?" (that last question being optional). After which the caller identifies himself.

Personally I only say "hello?" when I don't recognize the caller. Or ignore the call completely when it is a private number and I do not expect any phone calls.

  • 2
    Confirmed, the one picking up the phone normally immediately identifies himself, and the caller is then expected to do the same. However, when callee knows who's calling because they appear in their address book, the callee might as well pick up immediately with "Hello John", which renders self-identification by the caller unnecessary. – MC Emperor Aug 29 '17 at 7:18
  • @MCEmperor ...and listen to the awkward momentary silence because this was really Jane calling, borrowing her boyfriend's phone for whatever reason. – a CVn Aug 29 '17 at 7:35
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    @MichaelKjörling Awkward? You would say that Jane is not expecting you to expect John calling? – MC Emperor Aug 29 '17 at 7:58
7

The caller should identify themselves first. They initiated the call, so they should provide "bona fides," or least establish a reason for the call, so the recipient feels safe. Only then does the recipient need to verify who they are.

Now in a work situation, a recipient may be the first to identify themselves by say, their company name. For instance, "You have reached IBM. This is Tom Au speaking." That reflects well on the company.

But in a "private" call situation, the recipient doesn't have the protection of a company, and needs the extra protection.

4

Unless the caller is a close enough person to be recognized without trouble, they should try to identify themselved as soon as they can.

The reason why is the fact the the caller know who they are trying to reach, as well as what they want with that person. But the person who is getting the call do not have any information about the caller. So the caller should disclose those informations to put both callers on the same playing field.

  • 1
    _ The reason why is the fact the the caller know who they are trying to reach, as well as what they want with that person. But the person who is getting the call do not have any information about the caller. _ Precisely for that reason it might often be useful to the caller's purposes not to identify themself first, @user3399 -- I have given a few examples in my own answer. – English Student Aug 28 '17 at 8:28
4

I was taught when answering the phone, that if the caller asked for someone in the household, but did not identify themselves, to ask "And whom shall I say is calling?". If the caller was not forthcoming, then they generally did not get to speak to requested party.

Remember, the person being called is, by rules of etiquette, under no obligation to accept the call, and the caller is obligated to announce themselves. The rules for phone calls were borrowed from and thus are the same as those for actual physical calls (i.e. going to someone's residence and knocking on their door)

I am located in the US, so these points of etiquette may be specific to my locale.

  • Welcome to Interpersonal Skills! I invite you to take the tour and visit our help center to learn more about the site and its guidelines. Good first answer, by the way. :) – NVZ Aug 28 '17 at 18:04
3

They seem to think they are too important and too rushed to waste time talking to someone who is not their target. I ask the arrogant ones if they were brought up in a barn, and hang up. I explain to the confused ones that I am sitting in my house, minding my business and they are intruding, so they should identify themselves first, which they usually do.

Other answers have already discussed this from the point of old-fashioned etiquette. I would like to chime in from the other side - I feel completely the opposite.

Sometimes I receive a call that starts out by "Hello this is ..... from ....". I am only thinking "I couldn't care less". And contrary to you, I find this disrespectful and arrogant. Why is this fella talking about himself? Is the call even addressed to me? Tell me what you need from me not about yourself.

If those details are important to the case, I will ask myself who the caller is, who gave my number, what circumstances lead to the call etc. If you start to tell about yourself without caring if I need to know that and have time to listen to that - it's what I consider arrogant.

If I call someone, I try to treat them like I'd want myself treated - I say "Hello, I am calling because ..." or "Good morning, I wanted to enquire about ... ".

  • +1 It is always good to hear another side. How would you feel if the caller insisted on verifying that you were Dzuris before saying anything else? Maybe I should have made that clearer. – user1760 Aug 29 '17 at 1:35
  • If the problem is an too intrusive caller, I sometimes use "I don't know" to answer if this is me. Or "depends on the topic you wanted to discuss" which gives away that it's me but doesn't kill the conversation as fast as "I don't know" and invites for clarification. In your case "depends on who's calling" would be an answer that would serve both to give caller the needed verification and simultaneously stating that you are not interested in continuing conversation unless you know who's calling. – Džuris Aug 29 '17 at 10:59
2

I am absolutely used to not mentioning my identity first if I am making the call. That is simply out of sheer politeness.

I was taught that the caller always identified himself immediately.

That's definitely the opposite order of the culture I was raised with. (Although, admittedly, I think I vaguely recall having heard heard that my grandparent's generation may have had that expectation.) The expectation I'd have is:

  • that the receiver finds out who the caller is trying to reach
    • unless the receiver is even more polite by providing the receiver's name.
  • Then, the receiver tries to get the desired recipient on the phone, if possible.
    • If that's not possible, the receiver says so. If the receiver is willing to deliver a message, then the receiver can offer to take a message.
  • Once the desired recipient is on the phone and has identified themselves, then the caller identifies themselves.
  • Then, if the expected topic of conversation isn't assumed, the caller identifies why the call is being made.

This is most respectful of time, including professional scenarios (business calls) and less professional ones (when one child calls for another and reaches a sibling in the middle). The caller has already taken the time to call, wait for the ringing, and speaking to whomever answered the phone. By the time the desired recipient is on the phone, the "least that person can do" (to achieve minimal politeness) is to self-identify so the caller knows that the caller has completed the third phase of the phone call (after dialing, and ringing, the right people are now on both ends of the call).

When I answer a phone that is shared, I find it less polite if the calling person identifies themselves to me when I don't have any use for the information. If John is nearby, then why do I care that your name is Peter? I just want to know that you're trying to reach John, so I can tell John that there is a phone call. Giving me a second name, which I may not need, doesn't help me any. If anything, it might create additional opportunity for me to mix up the names. Why burden me with that? I'm doing you a favor of responding (so you know someone is at the destination location) and presumably will be polite enough to tell John that there's a phone call. So I'm doing you (as the caller) a favor. The least you can do is minimize my challenge in doing so.

If I decide that John isn't in, and I offer to take a message, then maybe I will be fortunate enough that you'll say "No thanks. [I'll call back later.]" Great. Then I didn't even need to take a message. I certainly didn't need your name. Thank you for not sharing it.

On the flip side, if I am making a call, my desired intention is to reach someone (which I made clear by causing the phone to ring). By asking for a person, I am clarifying who I am trying to reach. Frankly, who I am really doesn't matter until after I get that person on the phone. I really just need that person to have one piece of information: Who I am trying to reach. Giving two names (who I want, and also who I am) just takes additional time from a person who has already started giving me time by answering the phone. I'm not likely to rudely impose with my name, until asked. (And, if I'm asked before the person does the decent thing of letting me know if they can get that person on the line, I made be mildly annoyed by the slight impoliteness of the call screening.)

If someone starts asking me questions, like my identity, before giving any indication on whether they are going to cooperate with the common courtesy of getting the right person on the phone, then I am a bit surprised at the breach of what I believe to be the common courtesy (which I just identified). At which point, I internally sigh and start judging whether I am getting anywhere towards reaching my goal (of being able to tell the information to the desired recipient), or whether this person is going to waste too much of my time. If the efforts demanded of me exceeds the importance of communicating now, I might just stop playing stupid games, and try contacting the person later, possibly in person.

To this day, I answer the majority of my phone calls by doing the polite thing, which is to provide my name to the person calling in my initial greet. ("Hello, this is X.") The only times I tend not to do that is when caller ID indicates this is a person who will recognize my voice with a simple "Hello", or when I am answering a phone number with which I am likely to receive calls by multiple people who may know me by different names (since, to avoid duplicate name collisions, I now primarily go by my middle name, but many people know me from before I tended to do that).

  • "I am perfectly content with the way I handle the calls." I read you loud and clear, ab2. I didn't discuss at length with the expectation of turning you into a convert. I simply tried to explain the perceived advantages I see to the system/way of doing things that I've been used to. I'm fully realizing that there are multiple upvoted answers that, like the question, seem to favor the opposite approach of what I've mentioned. – TOOGAM Aug 29 '17 at 5:51
  • Notable point: "if I am making a call, my desired intention is to reach someone (which I made clear by causing the phone to ring). By asking for a person, I am clarifying who I am trying to reach. Frankly, who I am really doesn't matter until after I get that person on the phone." -- so you need to identify yourself only if the right person comes on the line, or if the person answering the phone insists: Example: "May I speak to Mr. So-and-so?/ who's calling?/ Is that Mr. So-and-so?/ I can tell you only if you say who's calling: I insist on that/ this is @TOOGAM/ OK this is So-and-so." – English Student Aug 29 '17 at 9:24
  • @EnglishStudent : Huh? You seem to be making a big deal out of the word "insist", which is not a word I used. – TOOGAM Aug 29 '17 at 23:01
  • 'Insist' is a response to this statement: "Frankly, who I am really doesn't matter until after I get that person on the phone." Please note, @TOOGAM, I meant that you would have no choice but to introduce yourself if the person answering the phone were to insist on it before proceeding with their own identification. In other words, the person attending the call has more control over the exchange of information than the caller. This is not any criticism of your answer but a reflection on the situation in OP's question. – English Student Aug 29 '17 at 23:40
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    Here's my point of view: the caller is intruding, and can either identify him/herself or be ejected. Frankly, I don't care what the CALLER wants or intends, because I don't know who the caller is -- could be a bill collector, thief or politicican, or just someone that wants to ask if there is a prince albert in a can – jmoreno Sep 1 '17 at 19:45
2

It depends on the culture. In many North European countries, it is common to pick up the phone and immediately announce your name.

I believe that the caller should identify himself first. Callees might (understandably) not want to give up personal information (such as their name) to unknown callers, who might have bad intentions.

I guess one exception would be if you're a celebrity with a very recognisable name, you would not want to announce your name before being sure that you have the right person on the other side of the line, just in case it's a wrong number.

Also, if you're calling a business just to ask for some generic, publicly available information (such as restaurant opening times) then there would be no need to identify yourself, just as if you were asking a stranger on the street for directions.

1

Who should identify himself first on the phone: the caller or the person called?

It depends.

If you're calling a romantic interest (or your tinder "friend"), you don't identify yourself first. For all you know, you're talking to the girlfriend or the boyfriend.

If you're calling a business, the business receiving the call should always identify itself first.

However, if a telemarketer, a debt collector, a scammer, a survey collector, or a business you just did business with, is calling a private individual. They're so afraid they'll get hung up on by the third party who answered your phone that they'll avoid saying as much as possible (and sometimes, they may even try to lie and imply that it's a personal call).

END OF MY FORMAL ANSWER

In the US, that's actually a huge problem. I know someone mentioned the "Do not call registry" but political calls, political surveys, and fundraising calls for non-profits (or scam artists pretending to fundraise for non-profits) are exempt, and most of the robocalls and auto-dialing telemarketers call from Canada, or from halfway around the world. So there is really nothing we can do to go after them when they break the law.

What makes it worse is that those auto dialers and robocallers will also spoof their caller id with a local phone number which is purposefully very similar to the one they're calling. And many times, those robocallers will just abandon the call if they get a voice mail. Or the autodialers will abandon multiple ringing phones halfway through before a person picks up as soon as its own human operator is busy with another call.

So people call back those numbers thinking that they missed a legitimate call. And of course, those people calling you back won't say who they are first because they believe that you're the one who called them in the first place (although, if that's what happened, that can usually be ascertained, because they'll be telling you: No, you're the one who called me first! You tell me who you are.)

In Europe, this just does not happen. If you have a cell phone in Europe, and if you chose the same cheap cell plan that everyone else has. When a telemarketer calls your mobile, it's like they're calling a 900 number, so they're paying dearly for the call. In the US, that's just not possible. Very early on, the US congress made a law that said that phone calls to US cell phones should cost the exact same as phone calls to US landlines, which means they cost almost nothing to the caller (but that also means that cell phones in the US can have the same area codes as landlines).

This is funny because Europe is supposed to be the socialist one with too many regulations and unintended consequences. But in this case, it's the socialist US over-regulation that created these zero-cost phone calls, which now unscrupulous telemarketers are taking advantage of by flooding our lines with millions of illegal robocalls each day.

  • "If you're calling a business, the business receiving the call should always identify itself first." -- Very true. When I answer my personal cell I expect the caller to identify themselves, but when I answer my work phone, I always pick up and announce "Hello, this is <name> with <company>, can I help you?" or something to that effect. – azurefrog Aug 29 '17 at 19:00
1

I have a slightly different interpretation. When calling someone, they hear "ring" then silence, then it repeats. Unless the person interrupts a ring, the caller won't know it's picked up for a second. This alone is reason enough for me to identify myself first.

As an aside, I mess with my wife like that. I answer the phone without saying something. There's a long pause, then she says something like "oh, did you pick up?"

So, I say the person being called should identify themselves first. I normally say:

"hello, this is [name]"

"Hi, this is [name], I'm calling because..."

Then the caller can get right to what they want. That makes one step before they get to the reason for calling. If you wait for the other person to speak first, then it can be two steps:

"Hi, this is [name] calling for [name]"

"Yes, this is [name]"

"Well, I'm calling because..."

If you speak first without identifying yourself, it's three steps:

"Hello, who am I speaking to?"

"Hi, this is [name] calling for [name]"

"Yes, this is [name]"

"Well, I'm calling because..."

I get a lot of random numbers for business, and this method results in less awkward stumbling from both sides.

1

The protocol I was raised with is a bit different from all of the others so far: the callee speaks immediately, but does not have to identify themselves. Instead they identify their location.

As "Moreno residence, may I ask who is calling?" or "Company X, can I help you?". Also acceptable is the phone number "You have reached 555-1234, who's calling".

Basically the callee speaks to clarify that the call has succeeded, but does not admit to any particular identity. This gives the caller the opportunity realize they have the wrong number without identifying the selves. If the caller refuses to identify themselves, the callee should just hang up. No explanation, no additional questions (other than asking who they are again/a different way) or answers, just hang up.

0

In a personal setting, the person receiving the call should pick up the phone with a greeting, but not necessarily with an identification. The caller should always identify themselves first. As someone initiating a call to a residence, you should have a pretty short list of people whom you expect to answer the other end. The person receiving has no idea who could be calling (could be anyone in the world) without caller id.

The exception to this would be if you are a visitor in someone else's home and are answering their phone on their behalf. If you are visiting the Jones family and decide to answer their phone an appropriate greeting would simply be: "Hello, Jones residence."

In a business setting however, it is customary to identify both the business name and your own when answering a phone: "Hello, Jones auto repair, Bill speaking."

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