Jan 18

Please Respect Me

Receptionists can make a big difference in how a company is perceived by the world.  I feel disrespected by my recent conversation with one and now have a sightly different opinion of the company.

Here’s the situation: I ask the receptionist to talk with Ms. Smith.  She responds, “Who is calling?” and I give my name.  The receptionist answers “Ms. Smith is not here right now, would you like to leave a message on her voice mail?”  I answer “Sure”, not wanting the response of the receptionist to get in the way of my work with Ms. Smith.

But, why am I told that Ms. Smith “not in” only after I give my name?  Perhaps it’s just habit to ask the questions in that order, or perhaps the receptionist is truly screening calls.  Either way, good communication skills include respect and I think there is a more respectful, Open Hearted way, to treat people calling your business.  I wish I had been mindful enough to ask the receptionist about her motivation in a jovial, Open Hearted way – hopefully showing her how I felt disrespected.

Have you encountered similar situations?  What was your solution?  Thanks for sharing!

About the author

Lisa Hamaker


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  1. Jim Matorin

    Lisa: Unfortunately rude is the new civility.

    1. Lisa Hamaker

      Understand Jim. Hoping to change that in my own small way.

  2. kim novick

    Lisa — there’s Perception, and there’s Fact. Both can be True. The speaker’s tone of voice can impart meaning, as can the mood of the listener. Transparency [or even the appearance, pretense?] of same can go far. Respect goes both ways. You felt dissed. Instead of turning the other cheek, and treating your respondent with the respect you desired, you opted for another solution. OH Life!

    1. Lisa Hamaker

      Well said Kim, thank you. One question, why do you say that my actions disrespected the receptionist? I agree they could have been more respectful if I had had the presence of mind to ask why she answered me that way, but I don’t think they were disrespectful. Am I missing something?

  3. Jen Smith

    I must confess I’m a bit baffled as to how, from what you explained of your conversation, you could be construed as having been disrespectful, Lisa. I’ve often had that thoughts similar to yours when first asked who is calling (before being told the person is not in). I’ve even gone as far as to wonder, “if I’d said I was someone else would they have taken the call?” Paranoia at its worse!

    Unfortunately I have had circumstances wherein I’ve encountered disrespectful receptionists myself. These encounters left me in state of incredulity, as I can’t imagine how such a person could be a representative of any company. Having said that, I find that smiling sweetly and saying, “I’m sorry, are you having a bad day?” has a way of stopping people in their verbal tracks, so to speak. Bold and presumptuous, perhaps, but at least I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt while tipping them off to the fact that their behavior is unacceptable.

    1. Lisa Hamaker

      Thanks for your comment. Jen- and I agree about the paranoia! In this case, I felt a bit paranoid, then in thinking it through, figured it must just be a habit for the receptionist to ask questions in that order. That’s my story and I am sticking to it!
      About your response for rude people–I LOVE it! I have often thought of saying, “Gosh I am sorry that you don’t like your job”, but that is also rude. Your response is perfect, gracious and caring. I bet you have lightened many people’s days.

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