We all get them … unwanted phone calls. Whether it’s from a telemarketer, a chatty relative who just won’t get off the phone, or calls from a persistent acquaintance or even a stalker!

Everyone’s first reaction is to just rudely cut them off. Not a good idea. This world has far too much rudeness in it, and there are kinder ways to handle them.

Fortunately, with today’s technology, Caller ID allows us to identify the caller. That way, we can ignore the call when we need to and return it when it’s more convenient for us.

If ignoring the call isn’t an option or you don’t know who is calling, here are some ways to deal with unwanted phone calls.


If you’re like me, you’ll see an unknown number, and, out of curiosity you answer the phone. Unfortunately, it’s a telemarketer who immediately begins his sales pitch. You so wish you’d let it go to voicemail!

In these situations, plenty of people are tempted to start cursing and yelling, but that’s the worst way to handle things. Remember, a telemarketer is just doing his job. No need for you to be impolite or use profanity. Just politely wait for the person to catch his breath and say, “I’m sorry, but I’m not interested.” Then hang up.

To avoid getting more of these calls in the future, register your telephone number with the National Do Not Call Registry.

Super Chatty Cathy

Everyone has experienced telephone conversations with another person who just won’t stop talking or end the phone call. Polite hints like “hmmm” or “I see” clearly illustrate our lack of interest. Chatty Cathy just keeps on talking anyway. We’re thinking of a way to politely end the conversation and not disrespect or hurt the other person’s feelings. Chatty Cathy is oblivious to it all.

When this happens, and you get a call from Chatty Cathy, be prepared to end the conversation before it gets started. Say: “Hi, I just wanted to answer and say hello, but I really don’t have time to talk right now. May I call you back?” If you let the other person launch into conversation, you won’t have a chance to end it!

Unwanted Business Associates

One of my friends complained to me about constant, unwanted calls from a former business associate and monthly voice mail messages that she feels compelled to return. She’s tried putting him off to no avail. The caller’s interest is purely business, and he is merely diligent in making calls to ensure that he stays in touch with his network of contacts.

She asked me if it would be rude not to call him back. My response: yes, the calls should be returned; but she need not be the one to return them. Instead, she should assign that task to a secretary, assistant, intern or a junior officer who can return his calls in a polite but perfunctory manner. That avoids burning bridges, which is never a good idea.

We all run into pesky associates who are harmless but try to take up our time. It’s part of business to just cope with them. Having someone else return the calls (wherever possible) will avoid a drain on your time.

The Stalker

In extreme situations, unwanted calls may actually be harassment. Whether an angry friend, total stranger or past relationship, take these types of calls seriously. Try to avoid answering the calls, and do not respond to harassment. Call your phone company and notify them of the calls. They may be able to prevent the number from calling you.

If the harassment doesn’t stop or is taking the form of threats, keep a log of all harassing calls and save any voicemail messages. Keeping a record of these calls will allow you to produce voicemail messages for the authorities.

Notify law enforcement to file a report. The police should step in and take action to stop the stalker. You may also need to change your phone number.

While unwanted phone calls can be a drain on your time and energy, you need to weigh each one and make sure that you handle them with kindness and respect. In the case of harassing phone calls, be sure that your first priority is your own safety.

John Daly is the founder and president of The Key Class, the go-to guide for job search success. Click here to learn more about The Key Class or to get his book. If you have questions about business or social etiquette, just ask John at johnkeyclass@gmail.com. Connect with The Key Class on Facebook. Follow John Daly on Twitter: @johndalyjrClick here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.