Why don’t people return phone calls?

It’s remarkable that so few people return their phone calls on a timely basis. Why is that? A re we just lazy? Too busy? Did I mention lazy? Don’t give a rip? “If it’s important, they’ll call back?”


fri blog one ringy dingy

Are you eyeballin’ me? Of course not … not you. You return all your calls. Right?

Wanna think about all the time we invest in phone tag? Nah, me neither.


Ok, let’s do it anyway. Talk about a time sink … keeping track of all those who …

  • don’t return the call,
  • are out of the office,
  • traveling,
  • on vacation,
  • sick,
  • already on the phone …

… what a bother, huh?

If you’re like me, you’ve probably got dozens of these floating around at any one time.

What if they don’t return phone calls at all?


It’s plenty irritating, isn’t it? … and probably bugs all of us because it probably happens to all of us … unless you’re maybe the President, Brad Pitt (for the ladies), Hugh Hefner for the guys …

“Hey, he’s probably inviting me to the mansion, isn’t he? Mr. President, if you’ll excuse me, gotta run ….”

So, Who Should Read this Article?

Not you … if you remember reading Chapter 1 of my RESPECT e-book … but you if you’re not following those guidelines. (That e-book is currently undergoing renovation but I’ll make it available to you again soon.)

My friends and colleagues probably know this is one of my pet peeves … so they’ve already stopped reading … maybe to return my call because…

“I must have forgotten about, misplaced? I got busy and wasn’t paying attention” …

[pullquote]I don’t even have voice mail or answering machines anymore. I hate the phone, and I don’t want to call anybody back. If I go to hell, it will be a small closet with a telephone in it, and I will be doomed and destined for eternity to return phone calls. ~ Drew Barrymore[/pullquote]

… but more likely because they’re sick of hearing about it and just don’t feel like taking the time to do anything about it.

You know who you are. (Don’t take this personally. I’m just having too much fun here and can’t stop myself.)

Here’s the most painful part

For the rest of you? I’ve applied some scintillating analysis for you right here so don’t miss it … drumroll … this is the painful part … more snare drum … “THEY JUST MAY NOT GIVE A RIP!”

What else could it be?

Sure, there’s an occasional mishap where we don’t get the message, it really was garbled or inaudible (assuming we’re talking voicemail and not those pink, “While you were out” messages) or inadvertently misplaced.

I get that.

But most of the time … NOT the reason.

We could chalk it up to sloth, ineptitude or general difference … but that’s the same as “don’t give a rip, isn’t it?


Here are some of my favorites

What you didn’t know is that I can get into the minds of the rank offenders and actually hear them thinking when I call them for the 2nd or 3rd time.

With my mystical and magical powers, I can readily conjure a few things they will likely say when I finally reach them …

“I’ve really been swamped lately. I’ve received your messages and I’m really sorry. I know I should have called you back ….”

That’s probably the most prevalent excuse, don’t you think? But what is that, really? Let me translate …

“I’m much busier than you are and you’re probably sitting on your a** with nothing else to do.” … or maybe …

“What I’m doing is so much more important than returning your call …”


… or the repentant version …

“I’m glad you called again. You know the knuckleheads I work with. They’re just killing me lately and I can’t get back to anyone. Don’t take it personally, dude, you got a lot of company …”

or this beauty …

“Funny that you called again. I was just picking up the phone to call you!”

Fri click to tweet return phone calls

Here’s what they should really say

I wish they’d all use a variation of this “believe it or not” alternative, slightly paraphrased “actual” voicemail message that goes something like this:

“Thanks for your call. I’m really too busy to process all the calls I get, but when I can find someone, they go through them and give me the ones I should return. If yours isn’t among them, I’m sure she screwed up because you, above all, I really want to talk to. But then, with this process I have, I’m not sure when I’ll ever get your message, but please keep trying ….”

Speaks for itself, I think. No interpretation needed.

Here are a few more favorites:

“Huh? Message? What message?”

This is a favorite used by those who want to appear busy … they’re sitting in the eye of the storm … and if you could only see it from their point of view ….



“I’m so friggin’ disorganized that I can’t find anything. I don’t even know who called or when, so how can I get back to them? That’s how busy I am!”

How about this version?

“Man, our damn voicemail system is so unreliable. You called, really? I’m going to call our tech guy right now … that’s it … I’m done with this system … I thought they’d fixed it.”

This might work once, but when you use it multiple times? Not so much.

“I didn’t have the answer I knew you were calling about … but I’m working on it.”

This is another favorite. Whenever there’s an outstanding question, they figure you couldn’t possibly be calling about anything else … and since they don’t have the answer yet (translation: “haven’t started working on it yet”) … why bother calling back?

Respect? Courtesy? Too much to ask?

“C’mon, man, you know I love you. That’s assumed between us, isn’t it?”

Does not returning calls mean you’re missing other stuff, too?

This will sound harsh … but whatever the reason for the unrequited love, its root is that those folks don’t care enough to implement a system to make sure it doesn’t happen.

Maybe if their boss calls, they get right back to them.

Spouse? Kids? Hope so.

But, to my jaundiced way of thinking, they’re just as likely to be sloppy about other things they’re supposed to do … denuding any sense of accountability that is the bedrock of successful executives.

So, that’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it. (This little piece is about everyone else’s inability to return calls … not really you or me … but if you want to be sure you got this handled, be sure to check out my article, The 8 Most Powerful Letters in Your Productivity Toolkit. Take a look at the video and the 7 Simple Steps there to help you get started toward solving this problem, at least for yourself.)

Did I have fun writing this?

You betcha.

Should I have included it in my 9 Super Annoying Habits I Hope You Don’t Have!


Would have made a nice round 10 … except that I forgot to include cracking your gum, which pushes us up to 11 … and counting. You don’t do that, I hope?

Are a few people laughing?

Only a few.

Most are too busy not returning their calls … or are running to the phone to call me back … or … are cursing because they’re tired of being reminded of their ineptitude …. oh, well, you know who you are.

Don’t like it?

Call me. You can be sure I’ll get right back to you … assuming I ever get around to it.

Question: What’s the favorite excuse reason you’ve heard for why your call wasn’t returned before you called again? Be sure to visit our Facebook Page or @Exkalibur on Twitter to share your thoughts and comments.

Leave a Reply