5 golden rules of the missed call

Apr 06, 2016 by Ronnie Apteker

What’s with the missed call? Are you meant to call them back? Do you need to check your phone every now and then to see who was looking for you? Is there a protocol to follow here, or, are we all just going mad.

I receive missed calls, sure. So do you. We all do. I also sometimes call people, and don’t catch them, and so I also contribute to missed calls. It never is a good feeling when we call someone that we really needed to talk to, and then we don’t catch them. Especially if they said to call. Do we try them again later? Do we wait a day before trying again? Two days? A week? We don’t want to appear like a stalker, or desperate. What’s the deal here? And some people have rigid voice mail messages that often say “Please don’t leave a message”. So, yes, it is not easy to figure out what’s the right thing to do.

One also has to separate out what is personal and what is business. We should always be professional, so if you do see a missed call from a colleague at the office or from a client, then try call them back. But if your mom misses you then you have some space here to call her back later or the next day. If you are reading this mom you know what I mean, and that is why you are the best mom.

Missing you

I am sure you also love it when someone says “We have being playing telephone ping pong” or whatever the expression is. Hang on … playing? It is not fun chasing anyone – yes, we are trying to contact someone and some people are just very difficult to get a hold of. And, what’s the deal with that person who calls you, and you miss their call by 15 seconds, and then you try call them back right away and it just rings.

We all got to keep cool heads in these wired times, and a sense of humour helps too.

What I can never quite grasp is when someone goes “Why didn’t you call me back?” Is that the rule – if someone calls you and you missed their call, then, it is expected that you call them back? I get a lot of calls in a day and I don’t monitor my phone like RoboPhoneCop, so if someone leaves me a message then I listen and call them back. But if that same someone then says “Did not see the missed call?” then I never actually know how to respond. Saying something like “I did see it” is not what they want to hear. Yup, these mobile machines are great and all, but they sure do make life more interesting.

We must always be polite and professional – what I would say is “I have been crazy busy and was going to try you later when I had time to think straight and can listen to you properly.” But I am sincere about it, and I do call them later, when I have time.

Nothing is worse than that brush-off call from the car, where you can’t hear much and most of the conversation goes like this “Hello … hello … can you hear me … hello … hello”, I’d better be off listening to Adele - she’s got a good voice and the music. Actually there are worse things, like death and taxes, but you get the point we are sharing.

Hang on. Isn’t the missed call akin to sending someone a blank e-mail and then saying, I never got a reply. Just saying.

Catch me if you can

As mentioned above, some people are just very difficult to get a hold of. So, you have to be persistent and you have to be smart. Not stalker territory, but this is where a bit of icebreaking can help smooth the way.

We are all glued to our phones – fact.

We all like to have our imaginations captured – fact.

We all enjoy a good laugh – fact.

Use this to your advantage. These days everyone uses a messenger like WhatsApp or Viber, and these Apps allow us to send video links, text stories, images, voice recordings, and more. I often send someone a joke simply to make them smile, and in doing so, they go “Oy, I better call him back”. Works for me… a lot.

Voice mail

Perhaps I am a bit old school, but I use voice mail, and when I know someone and call them and get their answering service I do leave a message. I used to have an answering machine at home when I was growing up. You know those things, with the little tape that sometimes got eaten up by the machine and then you lost everything. And my dad would say things to me like “I left a message on the Colindictor”. By the way, this machine has its origins in South Africa.

In the past few years we have seen mobile voice message services that say to you “Leave your message in English to ensure conversion to SMS”. I guess this means you can read someone’s message as text while you are sitting in a meeting. Of course, without the voice tone and dramatic pauses, etc. And then you get those who actually have a recorded message that says “Please don’t leave a message but rather text me”. Not so easy to text while you are calling from the road, but we all get into this situation every other week. There are also those people that when you chat to them face-to-face very casually say “I don't check my voice mails”. It is indeed a tricky slope.

My view, if you know the person, and have a rapport with them, and you call and get voice mail, then leave a message. If you and the other person know each other and trust each other then it is normal to leave a message. But, if you are reaching out to a new contact then probably best send them a text if you don’t catch them, and in the text say you will try them again soon.

Send a text

Mobile messengers are pervasive and everyone is texting. I use WhatsApp as much as e-mail these days, and it is great for getting a hold of someone. I even use the phone on WhatsApp to make calls, especially when I am travelling all the time because of our work. God knows how the mobile phone companies still make money, but that is a whole other discussion. Yes, sending a text these days is very commonplace. Just don’t do it when you are talking to someone else face-to-face – not cool. And that is another story too. When you are actually having a real life conversation (they still do happen each and every day) try put the phone away.

A gentle, short, and simple text can get someone on the page. As in “I just tried to call you but I did not catch you –when would be a good time to try again?” If that person knows you and you have a relationship with them, then I will bet you will hear from them. I assuming of course you have a healthy relationship here.

A text can break the ice and get people on side. The Coolfidence site has so many cool ideas for nudging people – you should explore the arsenal.

Crazy cats

The telephone and its history is very colourful. Did you know that the word “hello” was invented after the telephone? This new kind of machine made a noise, and you picked up the phone receiver and said … what did you say? A word was invented. Hello.

I remember calling a girl when I was in high school. The tension of getting the timing just right. You knew she was at home, and you said you may call, but, what if your mother or brother suddenly picked up the other extension in the other room. It caused us all so much embarrassment. And what if the girl’s mother answered when you call their house. Or worse, her brother, who you also knew from school. Wow, phones have added a lot of storytelling to our lives, and they do allow us to communicate and network. Phones connect us with people, both literally and figuratively. A phone call can remove tension, add excitement, or it could bring bad news and sadness.

It is great to have these wonderful machines that allow us to call people all across the globe, but with it, so comes behavior, protocol and trends. Someone decided, for example, that voicemail was not cool anymore, and so many people now don’t use it. And then someone decided that you can record your voice and send it as a WhatsApp message, and this is something I have been receiving quite a lot of lately.

Like ‘em or love ‘em, the phone, and in particular, the mobile, is becoming more and more entrenched in our daily lives. We better learn to laugh more, and just be cool, calm and collected, because they can sometimes make us dilly.

Summing up

Remember ET? He had to phone home. We all have calls to make. To family, friends and in business. The more comfortable and familiar, the easier it is. But when we call, or get called, by people we don’t know well, then we have to try follow certain protocols. If you get a missed call from a person you don’t know well, then it is probably more important to them than it is to you. They will call back. But if your mom phones, and you miss the call, then buzz her back. The importance of the call is key here. If it is just a casual call, then perhaps let it go. But make sure to call your mother back.

We have all been in the situation where we erase a voice mail message by mistake before we listen to it. Odd things happen with this warp-speed technology, so try keep a cool head. It is hard to keep up with all the constant digital distractions.

Try an icebreaker if you need. The Mobile Flight Mood is a classic, and also, have more fun with all these cool and crazy tech – so you missed a call and some time has passed – make that person smile, and break the ice.

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