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Telephones And Telephoning
Source: Nerves And Common Sense
MOST men--and women--use more nervous force in speaking through the
telephone than would be needed to keep them strong and healthy for
It is good to note that the more we keep in harmony with natural
laws the more quiet we are forced to be.
Nature knows no strain. True science knows no strain. Therefore _a
strained high-pitched voice does not carry over the telephone wire
as well as a low one._
If every woman using the telephone would remember this fact the good
accomplished would be thricefold. She would save her own nervous
energy. She would save the ears of the woman at the other end of the
wire. She would make herself heard.
Patience, gentleness, firmness--a quiet concentration--all tell
immeasurably over the telephone wire.
Impatience, rudeness, indecision, and diffuseness blur communication
by telephone even more than they do when one is face to face with
the person talking.
It is as if the wire itself resented these inhuman phases of
humanity and spit back at the person who insulted it by trying to
transmit over it such unintelligent bosh.
There are people who feel that if they do not get an immediate
answer at the telephone they have a right to demand and get good
service by means of an angry telephonic sputter.
The result of this attempt to scold the telephone girl is often an
impulsive, angry response on her part--which she may be sorry for
later on--and if the service is more prompt for that time it reacts
later to what appears to be the same deficiency.
No one was ever kept steadily up to time by angry scolding. It is
To a demanding woman who is strained and tired herself, a wait of
ten seconds seems ten minutes. I have heard such a woman ring the
telephone bell almost without ceasing for fifteen minutes. I could
hear her strain and anger reflected in the ringing of the bell. When
finally she "got her party" the strain in her high-pitched voice
made it impossible for her to be clearly understood. Then she got
angry again because "Central" had not "given her a better
connection," and finally came away from the telephone nearly in a
state of nervous collapse and insisted that the telephone would
finally end her life. I do not think she once suspected that the
whole state of fatigue which had almost brought an illness upon her
was absolutely and entirely her own fault.
The telephone has no more to do with it than the floor has to do
with a child's falling and bumping his head.
The worst of this story is that if any one had told this woman that
her tired state was all unnecessary, it would have roused more
strain and anger, more fatigue, and more consequent illness.
Women must begin to find out their own deficiencies before they are
ready to accept suggestions which can lead to greater freedom and
more common sense.
Another place where science and inhuman humanity do not blend is in
the angry moving up and down of the telephone hook.
When the hook is moved quickly and without pause it does not give
time for the light before the telephone girl to flash, therefore she
cannot be reminded that any one is waiting at the other end.
When the hook is removed with even regularity and a quiet pause
between each motion then she can see the light and accelerate her
action in getting "the other party."
I have seen a man get so impatient at not having an immediate answer
that he rattled the hook up and down so fast and so vehemently as to
nearly break it. There is something tremendously funny about this.
The man is in a great hurry to speak to some one at the other end of
the telephone, and yet he takes every means to prevent the operator
from knowing what he wants by rattling his hook. In addition to this
his angry movement of the hook is fast tending to break the
telephone, so that he cannot use it at all. So do we interfere with
gaining what we need by wanting it overmuch!
I do not know that there has yet been formed a telephone etiquette;
but for the use of those who are not well bred by habit it would be
useful to put such laws on the first page of the telephone book. A
lack of consideration for others is often too evident in telephonic
A woman will ask her maid to get the number of a friend's house for
her and ask the friend to come to the telephone, and then keep her
friend waiting while she has time to be called by the maid and to
come to the telephone herself. This method of wasting other people's
time is not confined to women alone. Men are equal offenders, and
often greater ones, for the man at the other end is apt to be more
immediately busy than a woman under such circumstances.
To sum up: The telephone may be the means of increasing our
consideration for others; our quiet, decisive way of getting good
service; our patience, and, through the low voice placed close to
the transmitter, it may relieve us from nervous strain; for nerves
always relax with the voice.
Or the telephone may be the means of making us more selfish and
self-centered, more undecided and diffuse, more impatient, more
strained and nervous.
In fact, the telephones may help us toward health or illness. We
might even say the telephone may lead us toward heaven or toward
hell. We have our choice of roads in the way we use it.
It is a blessed convenience and if it proves a curse--we bring the
curse upon our own heads.
I speak of course only of the public who use the telephone. Those
who serve the public in the use of the telephone must have many
trials to meet, and, I dare say, are not always courteous and
patient. But certainly there can be no case of lagging or
discourtesy on the part of a telephone operator that is not promptly
rectified by a quiet, decided appeal to the "desk."
It is invariably the nervous strain and the anger that makes the
There may be one of these days a school for the better use of the
telephone; but such a school never need be established if every
intelligent man and woman will be his and her own school in
appreciating and acting upon the power gained if they compel
themselves to go with science--and never allow themselves to go
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