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Hello? [Poll: Answering The Phone When You Know Who's Calling]

Yesterday, my cell phone rang. My screen indicated that my brother Matthew was on the line.

I answered the phone as I always do: “Hello?”

My brother responded, “You always answer the phone so inquisitively!” Then he and his wife went on what can only be referred to as a 20 minute rampage against me for acting like I don’t know who is on the other end of the line when I answer the phone.

But, I am 30 years old. I’ve only known who will be on the other line for about 10 years. I spent the rest of my phone-chatting time — including junior high school and high school when I spent a significantly longer amount of time on the phone than I do now — NOT knowing who was calling.

I was taught (and by taught I mean listened to my mother, my grandmother and any other role models in my life) answer the phone as a question. And those books I’ve been reading since I was, like, four? How do you think EVERY SINGLE CHARACTER IN EVERY  BOOK EVER answers the phone?

TV shows. Movies. Commercials. Even newer ones!

It’s ingrained! “Hello?” means I am answering the phone, “good-bye” means I am ending the conversation. Yes, times have changed and I am sure the kids (YES I SAID THE KIDS I AM OLD SHUT UP) don’t do it this way, but in the 80s and 90s, we did.

dog on phone with dori

“Hello? Aunt Dori? . . . There’s no answer, guys!” {actual depiction of events}

I guess I can break the habit if I really wanted, but I rarely talk on the phone and I don’t care enough. I’m more surprised that this behavior is so shocking to my brother and sister-in-law, who were born in 1985 and 1984 respectively. Not only is it not ingrained in them, but they find it ridiculous that I continue to answer the phone this way.

So now I am wondering just how common this is. Please vote the poll below and let me know if you answer the phone with “Hello?” by habit. Edited to add: I don’t mean ‘do you answer the phone differently based on how well you know the person?’ I mean, is “hello” so ingrained that you automatically say it without thinking?

Do you think it is strange when someone answers your call with “Hello?”

And feel free to leave a comment to elaborate or tell me I’m ridiculous or tell me my brother and sister in law are silly to be surprised by this long-standing convention.

online poll by Opinion Stage

14 thoughts on “Hello? [Poll: Answering The Phone When You Know Who's Calling]

  1. It actually depends on the person. For my mom, Danielle, and a couple close friends, I’ll say something more personal, but for most people, it’s just “hello.”

    Though, more importantly, pretty much everyone who knows me knows better than to bother calling me.
    Amelia´s last blog post ..Looking forward to 2014

  2. I am usually so shocked when someone calls me I automatically assume something is wrong and my “hello?” is more of panicked response. But either way, I’m with you.

  3. Always say hello, sometimes with different inflections depending on who it is.

    I also have a weird fear its someone else calling from someones phone so there is that too.

  4. If I’m expecting a phone call from someone I’ll usually answer with a “hey” or something like that. But if it’s an unexpected call (which is the case most of the time these days – I mean, who uses the phone?!) I always answer and say “hello?” I think it makes a lot more sense to say, “hello?” rather than, “hello.” Though, when it’s a number I *don’t* know I answer and say, “Hi, this is Danielle…” which is ingrained from work. Now that I’m thinking about it, I answer the phone a lot of different ways! But the bottom line is that I prefer texts and e-mails, hahah
    Danielle´s last blog post ..Belated: San Francisco Food Recap

  5. My natural instinct is to say “hello?” for the reasons you described ( I too am a child of the 80s). But I always stop myself at the risk of sounding ridiculous because the person on the other ends know I obviously have caller ID. Although I do sometimes get “unavailable” shown on the caller ID in which case I can let out my natural “hello?”..
    Sam @ Mom At The Barre´s last blog post ..Flybarre Sport with Kara Liotta: Barre Meets Bootcamp

  6. I’m totally with Amber above. I hate the phone. I rarely answer it. Texting is the way to go for me. But on the rare occasion I answer the phone it’s usually Hello? An inquisitive-type tone with a definite annoyed undertone.

  7. I’ve embarrassed myself quite a few times by launching into conversation with someone I THOUGHT was on the other line, only to find out someone else was calling from that number, so unless I’m expecting someone to call, I usually always answer generically.

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