How To Talk On The Phone In 2024

By Rebecca Barry Hill
If picking up the phone to call a friend fills you with dread, read on. Collage / Julia Gessler

Have we lost the art of the phone conversation in 2024? Writer Rebecca Barry Hill may have the answer to reviving your friendships and preserving your productivity with these easy tips.

When was the last time you gave a friend a “tinkle”?

For those who grew up pre-internet, gabbing on

In the age of digital overwhelm, a phone call can be construed as intrusive, say Millennials, and they do have a point. Unless you prefer to Zoom or FaceTime (does anyone post-Covid?), chatting with no visual cues requires extra rapport. This can only be achieved via small talk about how many months it’s been since Christmas. Sometimes it means hearing the minutiae of someone’s husband’s failure to use a washing machine. You might pour your heart out yourself only to realise your friend has spent the last three minutes prising felt tips off the 4-year-old in the background whose tantrum you’ve both tried to ignore. Is there anything to catch up on anyway that isn’t laid bare on their Instagram?

Katie Gray, a former lawyer turned executive coach currently studying for a master’s degree in organisational psychology, and a friend who spends a decent chunk of her day on the phone, says yes.

Those who rely largely on text or email are missing out on the emotion inherent in a good old-fashioned chinwag, she argues. Without the nuance that tone of voice provides, you might miss what someone isn’t saying. Plus, if you’re being a good friend, connection should trump convenience.

“It can be really easy to text and do things on your own agenda,” she says. “But that’s not really friendship, is it? Friendship is so much more involved and generous than that. You get out what you put in. And if you are seeking to connect, it’s going to eventuate into a much deeper friendship. Without the voice context, it can end up being a little transactional.

“If you reflect on how you feel after being on the phone with a friend, compared to just receiving a text message, it’s quite different.”

I 100 per cent agree but after playing phone tag with several friends recently, I have compiled some ground rules for nurturing friendships on the dog and bone in 2024:

1. Keep it to 8 minutes if you must

Last year, The New York Times ran a 7-day Happiness Challenge, whereby they posited the superiority of a regular eight-minute phone call to a friend, compared to leaving it for months on end. I thought a time-restricted catch-up sounded like an awkward thing to suggest to a busy mate but hey, sometimes the best things in life last even less than that.

2. Never call after 8pm

The rule used to be 10pm, but that window before bed is the one time of day when you don’t have to answer to anyone. Not your boss, not your kids, your spouse, pets or, sorry, friends (unless they’re crying — that’s an emergency). The only thing you need to pick up post-8 is the remote, and if you’re lucky, some microwaved cheddar on a whole Salada. Let’s not ruin it by dissecting the week that’s been.

3. Also never call before lunchtime, unless it’s the weekend

In order to reach the above nirvana, one must plough through work with the dogged determination of an asthmatic mountaineer on the cusp of Everest’s peak. To be interrupted now could mean death. Of couch time. Bad.

4. If you must call before midday, send an audio message

A particularly loquacious friend with whom I’ve enjoyed many loose hours of chats over the years has started sending me the occasional audio message, to listen to at my leisure. Sometimes she simply describes where she’s walking to or what she’s thinking about. Other times she speaks in a creepy voice and I panic I’m being scammed. The point is, the audio message is a chance to challenge your tired ideas of what a phone call even is.

5. Never call if you’ve been texting the same person for 45 minutes

We’ve all done this, probably. Started what we thought would be a quick tête-a-text only for something really juicy to come out of it, prompting a ‘can I call you?’ Well, no. This was meant to be a Facebook messenger conversation, not a real one. I’m on the toilet right now and didn’t want you to know.

6. Schedule a marathon

Sorry, Millennials, but life wouldn’t be the same without those unwieldy phone conversations that leave makeup all over your phone and the rest of your family wondering if they’ll ever see you again. These can’t always be as spontaneous as you’d like. Save them for your oldest and dearest buds, the ones you don’t get to see all the time but who know your darkest secrets. (They might crack if you don’t answer.) The modern way to “catch up” is to insert earbuds, pour a gin and multitask. You’ll be amazed how much you learn about your friend’s life, their annoying colleague’s life, their annoying colleague’s neighbour’s life, and how clean and tidy your house is afterwards.

More life

From hobbies to wellbeing.

Does everyone have a hobby except you? It’s time to drop the guilt around leisure time, of having a passion purely for yourself.

Ask an expert: My boss is an egomaniac. What should I do? Top leadership entrepreneur Stella Petrou Concha offers sage advice for the workplace.

They got married and had children. Then they told their spouse they’re gay. What is it like to come out later? How they started a new life — midlife.

Is it possible to improve our memories or are we doomed to forget as we age? Memory is a fickle beast at the best of times. But what if you could train it?

The Beauty Chef’s Carla Oates wants you to unlearn everything you know about wellness. The entrepreneur is shifting the dial on beauty, wellness and our thoughts on silverbeet.

Unlock this article and all our Viva Premium content by subscribing to 

Share this article: