Smartphones in the street: Use ear buds for business calls

I’m getting calls more often from business associates in noisy environments and I can’t hear much of what they have to say.

Okay, call me a curmudgeon as I have a complaint. Lately I’ve received numerous calls from business associates and I can’t hear what they want to tell me. They are making the calls from the street, and the cacophany of traffic noise, street people shouting, and construction noise makes it impossible to conduct a simple phone conversation. If only they were using ear buds with an integrated microphone.

Street view
Image: Google street view

This is simply common sense but in the hectic business world it often slips by the wayside. The professional is rapidly walking in the city center from one appointment to another, and often making calls on the way. There is only so much time in the day and it can’t be wasted.

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Unfortunately, city noise can overpower even the best noise-cancelling technology in smartphones. This results in a call that is annoying to the person on the other end of the conversation. I’ve recently been on calls where much said by the other person had to be repeated, and loudly.

Many smartphones have multiple microphones designed to put a damper on background noise. They work fine, but the noisiest city streets can easily overcome them. This is annoying to those you call.

This can often be avoided with a simple pair of ear buds. It doesn’t require expensive equipment, even the earbuds that come with most phones do a good job suppressing background noise.

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If you’re going to be on the phone while walking in loud areas, plug in the earbuds. While this may not make all the background noise go away, it’s bound to be much better than the phone alone. The people you’re doing business with deserve a simple effort to make it less annoying.

A word of advice: if you’re calling a new contact, do it from the quietest place you can find. It’s true what they say about first impressions, and yelling into the phone so they can hear you gives a bad one.

Think of it this way — use the same phone etiquette for others that you’d like others to use with you. Show them the respect of making calls in quiet places and you send a respectful message to them.

That’s a lot better than sending the message that you are too busy to make a simple effort so they can hear you. If you’re too busy to make a proper phone call, maybe you’re too busy to handle their business needs.

Perhaps I’m being too sensitive about this but it’s happening more frequently. It’s as if something has changed about work etiquette and I missed the memo. Whatever is behind it, please stop. Take a little time to do business calls the way you should when running around town. Your associates will appreciate it, and your clients will get a good impression of you.

And don’t even think about making calls from the street using your smartphone as a speakerphone. That not only makes a bad impression, it violates the right to privacy your associates expect. It makes you look like a jerk, too.