Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Phone Etiquette

Julian Hopkins blogs about being introduced to phone etiquette in Malaysia:

What things were very different for me here?
• Not introducing oneself at the beginning of the call.
• Asking for personal information – what was ‘Mrs Wong’ doing, what’s her handphone number.
• The lack of polite niceties, such as ‘Hello’, ‘please’ and – in particular – putting down the phone without saying goodbye! That one took a lot of getting used to :-O I eventually learnt that conversations usually end with the end of the matter in hand, and a word such as ‘OK’, or ‘Thanks’.

Initially, I would find myself being distinctly disgruntled at such calls, in particular the perceived rudeness of (for me) cutting off a conversation without proper disengagement. I learnt to deal with it, and now often don’t say goodbye, depending on who I’m talking to...
From my own experience, I know it is hard to deal with such 'differences' in everyday life. Since such etiquettes are tied with notions of politeness and proper behavior, the easiest way of dealing with them is to label them as 'improper'/ 'rude'. I remember several instances when I was annoyed - if not irritated - with people on the other side of the phone: some seemed (to me) to 'demand' things. Others would never say 'hi' or 'goodbye'. And yet others sounded harsh and insisted on something that I had already explained was not the case or was not possible.

Writing this post, I'm thinking how all these emotions and reactions have to do with that complex boundary which delimits the norm from the difference. The 'right' ways of doing things are definitely embodied, connected to our emotions as well as our chemical responses (yeah, the rush of adrenaline when I feel pissed off). This only makes the feeling that 'this is right/ wrong' stronger: after all, we 'feel' it.

The hardest thing when moving from one context of practices to another is understanding that yours are by no means the best or the righteous. But I feel there is quite a gap between rational understanding and enacting the consequences of realizing this in everyday life encounters.

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