Because You Are Polite by Ginger Philbrick

If I am talking to someone on my cell phone and another call is coming in, is it polite to cut off the original caller, or see who is calling and call them back later?

Chatty in White Stone

Would our great-grandparents have imagined we could walk around almost anywhere talking to another person on a cordless rectangle and transfer back and forth between callers? I think that even imagined communication between two tin cans connected by a length of string would have been foreign to many.

Now that technology has made such a notion a reality, we need to take the etiquette of our forebears and apply it to our current interactions, the key being respect to all parties involved.

In most cases, your phone will show who is trying to reach you. If it is someone to whom you need to speak immediately, you should quickly explain to the first caller that you “need to take an incoming call.” You can decide whether to tell them you will call them back or, if the conversation was reaching a reasonable end, to say “thank you for calling” or “I’ve enjoyed talking with you” or some other friendly indication of closure.

If you see the incoming call is one you want to acknowledge but still want to continue the first conversation, it is polite to put caller #1 on hold, greet and explain to caller #2 that you are on another call but would like to return their call, and then go back to caller #1.

If you are expecting an important call, it is thoughtful to tell caller #1 so at the start of our conversation.

Thank you, Chatty, for your question and kudos for your caring!

Ginger Philbrick is the owner of Because You Are Polite LLC. You are invited to email your manners questions to her and she will respond as time and space allow. You may contact her at