Five Ways to Get Off a Phone Politely

When it comes to unwanted calls from businesses and charities offering things you may not want, there is a way to stop these calls before they happen.

In the USA telemarketers and sellers are required to search the US Government’s registry at at least once every 31 days and remove from their call lists the phone numbers of consumers who have registered. If you haven’t already done so, consider registering your phone numbers at this site.

In the UK you can opt-out by registering with the Telephone Preference Service at and other countries have similar services.

Although opting out will massively reduce the amount of unwanted calls, the problem is you’ll still get calls from companies and organisations that have not bothered to clean their lists against these services.

There is nothing more irritating than someone who won’t get off the line. It wastes time and can be endlessly annoying. So here are some ways to end a call politely that will hopefully save you some frustration. But first, a couple of things to keep in mind:

If like me you often get several unwanted sales people calling every day, it’s hard to stay cool but remember that these people are only doing their job, so do your utmost to be polite and treat them the way you wish to be treated when you make phone calls to people not expecting your call.

It’s tempting to tell outright lies to unwanted callers but it’s easier to be truthful and you’ll come across more forcefully too. And be firm, especially when you are at work. After all, they are in danger of wasting your precious time.

When dealing with unwanted business calls, your key objective must be to take charge of the call. When the caller is a telemarketer selling something or raising funds they are often reading from a script. This not only makes them extremely boring and tiresome to listen to, but makes them susceptible to being taken off course. Interrupt and ask what they are offering. What ever it is, interrupt again and say that you are not in the market for it or that you never buy anything or make donations over the phone, but thanks for calling.

Also, ask them to remove your number from their calling list. However, don’t expect them to always be able to do so because these organisations often use automatic diallers that dial random numbers unknown to the agent. In the UK this is a particularly irritating practice used by companies hawking mobile phone services.

I particularly like the Jerry Seinfeld response. In one episode he told a telemarketer he was busy but would be pleased to call him back at home that evening if he would give him his home phone number. When the telemarketer said he didn’t take calls at home, Jerry said neither did he and hung up.

Dealing with calls from friends and relatives requires more creativity and subtleness.

If you don’t already have one, consider buying a phone that displays the callers number before you answer just like on a mobile cell phone. You may need to ask your phone company to supply you with Caller ID (Calling Line Identification) as well. Some modern phones will also display the callers name and some will even speak it as well. Or install an answering machine that will let you hear the caller speaking through the loudspeaker before you pick up. Both methods enable you to check whose calling and gives you the option to return the call at a time to suit you.

But unless you want to lose all your friends, you’re still going to have to speak to them at some point. Which is fine except that far too many people have verbal diarrhoea and don’t know when to stop talking. All too often they seem to believe a conversation involves them speaking interminably and you listening patiently without interruption. And it’s hard to disabuse them of this view. The upside is that they will tell all your other friends that you are one of the most interesting people they know. The downside is you’ll get a pain in the ear.

So, if you don’t mind telling white lies try some of these…

Interrupt and say someone is calling you or is at the door and you must go.

If you have a child, tell the child the caller would just love to hear about their latest toy / homework / school play / football game etc, then tell the caller the child wants to speak to them and put the child on the line. Then walk away and let the kid get on with it. Generally they’ll soon get fed up with talking to a child.

Hang up whilst you are talking. They’ll think the line went dead. After all, who hangs up on themselves? Then put the answer machine on to catch their call when they call back.

Whatever you do or say, do try to keep cool. After all, remember it’s your blood pressure going up not that of the irritating caller.

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