Four Ways NOT to Hang up the Phone

It’s magical how we humans have all evolved to talking on the phone. We’ve grown up with the things, utilizing them as the default method of communication with people even remotely significant in life. Everything is fine and dandy when we’re on the phone, holding real-time conversations as if the other person is right there with you. Everything is great, that is, until the ending. Oh that terrible, horrifying ending.

In real life when you end a conversation, one of two things will happen.

A. The other person will walk away complete in the knowledge that communication has been achieved.

B. Another conversation will unintentionally break out.

But when you’re on the phone, a hundred different things may happen to leave you wondering if your best friend is now your mortal enemy. My fiancee and I don’t fight much, but when we do it’s typically because we tried to end a conversation on the phone.

Ending a phone conversation is a dangerous proposition indeed. And yet, for some reason it must be done. I mean, you can’t just talk on the phone all of the time, despite what preteen girls will tell you. Let’s go over the four types of people who notoriously foul up phone conversation endings.

1. Severus Kate
Kate is the person that you’re worried may be plotting to kill you out of revenge. This person will finish a conversation and then say bye and hang up before you know what to do. As you’re giving your final word’s, you’ll hear the horrible sound of the dial tone. This is the end. The conversation is over. What’s done is done. Kate will leave the respondent speaking to static, along with the nagging sensation that he or she said something horribly wrong.

2. Lingering Lloyd
Lloyd is the complete opposite, and perhaps the most annoying on the list. He doesn’t understand the definition of the word “bye.” You’ll say you have to go, and he’ll agree and dismiss you. However, before you can manage to break the connection, he’ll remember something and launch into a soliloquy. After that, you’ll say bye again. The process will repeat for up to 30 minutes or even an hour. Lloyd, I know you’re lonely, but this is a recognized form of torture, and it’s not nice to torture people.

3. Lubby-Dubby Lois
Strangely, Lois pops up more in grandmas and aunts than in boyfriends and girlfriends. Lois will NOT STOP talking about how much she loves you, thinks you’re wonderful, and considers you the greatest little sweetie-pie ever. While she means it with utmost sincerity, you’ll reply with reciprocal terms of endearment just trying to get her off the dang phone. There is a time and place for this. The phone is not it.

4. Professional Paul
Paul is a very interesting case, because he’s not as annoying as much as he is weird. Paul is capable of having a great, intriguing phone conversation with you; that’s no problem. But the way he breaks is very rehearsed. Very formal. He works in the business world, so he’s been practicing conversation endings all of his life. Still, the insincerity of it all will have you thinking about it several hours later. There is such a thing as rehearsed and over-polished, so you’re wondering if Paul may have just been trying to sell you something.

So, if you fall into any one of these categories, there is hope. I have put together a fool proof format that will help you sever the connection on good terms.

The Goldilocks Zone
A good phone break should last between 30 and 45 seconds. Any longer leads to frustration and eventually anger. Any shorter will lead to subtle feelings of dislike and mistrust. Now, I’m sure nobody’s going to take a stopwatch and time these things, so I’ll help you out.

The Outline
A good phone ending will consist of four things. You may phrase them however you want, as these are overall concepts.
1. Declaration of Intent
(Well, it looks like I have to go eat lunch / get back to work / play video games.)
2. Future Encounter
(I look forward to seeing you again tomorrow / on July 4 / when you get back from your vacation to Neptune.)
3. Term of Endearment (Optional)
(I love you Baby / You’re a great mom / See ya Bozo.)
4. Bye.
(Bye)

I can’t emphasize step 4 enough. Just say “bye.” Not goodbye. Not adios. Not until next time. Just bye. Any modifications and you risk additional conversation.

Once you’ve done all of this, both parties will feel fulfilled. If the other person wants to be any of the types of annoying closers listed above, you can now hang up on them knowing you’ve done your best to achieve phone-ending balance. Just… hang up in mid-sentence. Let it go. I promise you it’s okay. You’ve done everything you can.

Leave your horrifying phone ending experiences in the comments below!

about the author

[Thanks Jonathan Lowery for the suggestion!]

[This post was originally published on June 24, 2014. It’s been revised and republished because, frankly, I’m a better writer now.]

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