April 2, 2010 in Features

Miss Manners: Speakerphone spills too much information

Judith Martin
 

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Is it proper to use a speakerphone when there are other people in the room or car?

My husband has a hands-free phone system in his car. He frequently travels to different locations during the day and has co-workers often riding with him.

When I call him, I have asked him to let me know that there are other people listening to our conversation. Possibly something like, “Hi, honey, Jack and I are between appointments, what’s going on?” This lets everyone know who is listening to the conversation.

I don’t feel it’s my place to say, “Are you alone?” because it makes me feel rude if there are people listening. And if he indicates he’s not alone, then what do I say?

So far my husband has not changed and doesn’t feel it’s necessary to change.

One time his sister was riding with him and she listened to our conversation for about five minutes before I was told she was in the car. When I asked her later about it, she said it made her feel very uncomfortable that I didn’t know she was listening.

Another time, I didn’t know I was on speakerphone, and I told my husband where I hid the children’s Christmas presents so he could steer them away from that area when he arrived home, and all my children heard the whole conversation.

After these and many more incidents, I’m sure I don’t even know about, I now have only extremely short conversations with him during the daytime in case we’re not alone. And I certainly don’t flirt with him on the phone! What is the right way to handle the speakerphone?

GENTLE READEr: That’s easy; it is handling your husband that seems to be your real problem.

As you know, anyone using the telephone on the speakermode should inform the other person who else is listening to the conversation. But you have told your husband that, and neither your examples of what went wrong nor your asking him to accommodate you has worked.

Miss Manners is not a marriage counselor, so she will confine herself to the matter of protecting your conversations. You might always assume that there is someone else listening, and call out a merry “Hello, everybody; who’s there?”

Presumably, your children, sister-in-law or whoever is in the car will return your greeting. And with any luck, your husband will soon tire of this and accede to your request. Or your state will pass a law prohibiting even hands-free telephones.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have a friend whose daughter had gotten engaged and planned a wedding in August. My daughter had been engaged for five years, but because of different circumstances could not get married right away.

We do not have much family, but this July, the family will be visiting. My daughter and her fiance decided to have their wedding in July. Small wedding.

My friend called me and said that if I do have my daughter’s wedding a month before her daughter’s, she would never talk to me again. I told her our friendship is over then.

Am I crazy, but I find this ridiculous. My daughter’s small wedding will not affect her daughter’s wedding at all. We are not having any showers or parties before.

Everyone I talked to said get a new friend. What is your opinion?

GENTLE READER: That you should get a new friend.

Readers may write to Miss Manners at MissManners@ unitedmedia.com, or via postal mail at United Media, 200 Madison Ave., 4th Floor, New York, NY 10016. Judith Martin is the author of “Miss Manners’ Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior (Freshly Updated).”

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