Five stupid things not to say on your voice mail greeting

Real-life never stops being amazed at how people sully their reputations by dumb things they say on their voice mail greetings. You surely have your own ideas about it, but after calling a lot of phones, here’s where we sit. 

fivestupidthings1. Nothing

That’s right, Saying nothing in your voicemail greeting tells a caller you can’t be trusted. When callers hear  “213-555-1234 is not available,” their immediate impression is probably that you’re hiding from something — such as an obligation of your own making that you’re trying to shirk.

Which of course might well be true, at least in the United States, where a third of all adults are hounded by debt collectors, according to one recent report.

But suggesting, with your lack of any personalized greeting, that you’re hiding from something leads a caller to instinctively lump you in with all the other deadbeats, liars, cheats, deceivers, frauds, and crooks that so thickly populate the modern landscape. Instantly, you’re depreciated your own stock by a few points.

Conversely, having a personal voicemail greeting that includes your name — at least your first name, or your nickname — tells callers you have nothing to hide and that you’re eager to engage in life’s give and take.

2. “Sorry I can’t get to my phone.”

Really? You are so routinely unable to answer your phone that you make it a feature of your default voicemail greeting? Where do you live, underwater? Where do you keep your phone — in your bank’s safe-deposit box?

Saying you can’t get to your phone brands you a liar. We all know that just about anybody with a phone can sometimes answer it and sometimes not. Stating otherwise in your greeting is a baldface lie. We’d suggest instead just getting a name tag that says hello my name is LIAR.

3. “Leave your name, phone number, and a brief message.”

This is a voicemail phrase straight out of 1978, when disco was king and phones still had cords. Nowadays, you don’t need to teach people how to use voicemail. After decades of its existence, we pretty much got it.

4. “I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.”

Really? You’ll call back everyone who calls you, and at the very first opportunity? What if it’s a debt collector? A heavy breather? A telemarketer? It’s amazing how many people offer this blatant lie in their voice mail greeting.

Unless you are a robot, you’re like the rest of us: You’ll call back some people who leave a message, and others you won’t. You brand yourself as dishonest by claiming you’ll return all calls.

(You may ask, what’s the problem lying to a telemarkter? Well, a lie is a lie. Why announce to legitimate callers that you’re a circumstantial liar — one who lies depending on the circumstances?)

5. “I’ll try to call you back.”

It’s a step closer to honesty than the previous statement, but it’s also a silly lie, when you really mean what everyone knows: that you might or might not return a call.

It also suggests you’re not in control of the simplest things in your life. That you have extremely large fingers and are often unable to dial your phone correctly. That you’re thrown in jail frequently and the deputy always puts your phone into a PRISONER BELONGINGS envelope that you get back only when your time has been served. Or, whatever.

Saying in your voicemail greeting that you’ll try to return the call marks you not only as a liar, but a goof as well.

A high-class alternative

OK, now that we’ve stated what’s obvious to us, you ask, what’s the perfect voicemail greeting?

To which we say, there’s probably not one. But if you’re absolutely unable to come up with something good, we’d suggest something like this.

“Hi, it’s Francoise, and you’ve reached my voice mail. Please leave a message if you’d like, and I’ll return calls as appropriate. Have a good day.”

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