Small Talk

Speaker phone

April 18th, 2012

I have a gripe. In our very wired society, why do people think it's OK to put their calls on speakerphone - WITHOUT TELLING THE OTHER PARTY?

I have a news flash: there is an assumption that when you call someone (or you take a call from someone) that it's a private conversation between you and the caller, unless otherwise specified.

I have been on a number of calls (to several different people) in which halfway through the conversation, I figure out I'm on speakerphone and there are other people in the car. RUDE, PEOPLE. RUDE.

I understand the following assumptions about busy people: 1) Busy people multitask because they need to use time efficiently, so many calls are made in the car. 2) It's the law to have hands-free headsets in Hawaii. 3) Many newer cars have a built-in Bluetooth in which the conversation is blasted out in the entire car. There is no way to be private in this situation.

I still don't understand why people do this. Maybe it's because I'm sensitive to this issue and it's my pet peeve, but I have always made it a point to open a call with, "Hi, you're on speakerphone with my parents in the car."

Note the use of specifics - "my parents." Referring to a carload of people as "we" is still too vague. I don't mind saying certain private things if only a three year old is listening. Can you inform me if "we" also includes your wife, your mother in law, and/or your preteen child?

Here is a sample of how I have been made aware I'm on speakerphone:

Me: "So what time do you want to meet this Saturday?"

Female friend on the other end of the line: "I don't know. Joe, what time are we done with the kids' soccer game on Saturday?"

Joe: "12."


Me: "Can you ask your wife for me (blah blah blah)"

Male friend: (without a pause or without repeating my message) "She says (answer)."

Part of the reason why they think it's OK is probably because our conversations are very conservative. I have nothing inflammatory or scandalous to say. I am not flirting with them. I am not having an affair and wanting to confide in them. Lucky for me, I'm pretty drama-free these days, which is just how I like it.

However, I still think it's rude. What if I wanted to complain about/divulge something that *I* felt was confidential, that I didn't want their spouse to hear?

This is my information. It's my choice to share with it whom I want. I called you, not you + your spouse.

Most people don't place a social call with a predetermined call agenda, like a business meeting. Stuff comes up organically in the course of conversation. Let me know that I should be editing my words. If nothing else, I'd like to know there are kids in the car so that I don't let loose some swear words and get everyone in a hoo-ha.

I understand a lot of people think it's normal and OK to share everything with their spouse. I consider my husband my best friend and I tell him practically everything (unless you ask me not to.)

However, there is still a difference between summing up a phone conversation to your spouse with, "That was Diane. She had a bad day, people got on her nerves. OK, what's for dinner?" and giving your spouse a courtside seat to listen to my every word for five minutes.

I searched this on the internet and found a number of links that confirm my etiquette rant, This one is from A to Z of Manners & Etiquette:

The caller would talk less freely if it was known that a third person could hear both sides of the discussion. So, speakerphone etiquette rule number one is – to always first obtain consent to put a person on to speakerphone. Advise them of who else can hear the conversation and whether that person is going to participate in the conversation. Then it will not come as a surprise to suddenly hear a third voice talking to them. This applies to conference calls as well.

Does anyone else feel the same and does anyone have examples of where this kind of rudeness actually offended someone?

5 Responses to “Speaker phone”

  1. Ken Conklin:

    "Oh what a tangled web we weave
    when first we practice to deceive."

    I'm just like everyone else in feeling a need to protect my privacy. But what makes me different is that I acknowledge my desire for privacy to be a flaw. I think we would all be much better off if everyone would give up any right or desire for privacy. Nobody (including me) should be expected to give it up unless everyone else also gives it up; and of course that will never happen.

    But in an ideal world everyone should be able to get unlimited information about everyone else, by free access to written records, microphones, cameras, and even in-person observation. So long as we have an absolute guarantee that nobody will touch us or interfere with what we do, what's the harm in other people knowing about what we do or observing us while we do it?

    The way it works now, with privacy rights intact, is that we make very important choices based on incomplete or even deliberately false information. We seem to think it's perfectly OK to commit fraud constantly, getting our friends and acquaintances to give us favors when they would never be so generous if they knew the truth about us. Or, on the other hand, they might still like us because they can see for themselves that the things we do are done by lots of other people too, with no bad consequences.

    How would you like to give a gazillion dollars to a contracting company which knows it will file for bankruptcy tomorrow but keeps that information secret until they get your money? How about dating or marrying someone who has hepatitis or aids and keeps it secret? How about prejudice against Koreans based on the fact that they eat dogs, when it turns out either that they don't really eat dogs or else it turns out that we can see for ourselves that eating dogs is no different from eating pigs or cows?

    If full disclosure were the norm, we would all be much better off. I published a philosophic analysis of this topic 35 years ago in an academic journal (i.e., it's really BORING), and still believe it's correct:

  2. Kage:

    I am with you on this issue.

    I was once on the phone with my sister when she was in a bad relationship. I could tell I was on speakerphone. I told her to take me off of speakerphone and without pause, her boyfriend chimed in that she was not on speakerphone.

    Not the brightest bulb.....

  3. kuunakanaka:

    aloha Diane:

    I agree w/ u about speaker phone, and will seek consent 2 b placed on speaker phone.

  4. Nanea:

    See, this is where one reaps the benefit of being a consistent potty mouth. Pretty much anyone who phones me or who would receive a call from me knows NOT to put me on speakerphone. I do think it's just good etiquette to notify the person on the other end when they are on speaker. Also, this is one of the many reasons I prefer texting. Or my new love, the Voxer app.

  5. Diane Ako:

    I knew I could count on Nanea for a sufficiently funny answer!

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