Posted by: E (The Third Glance) | April 25, 2012

Social Scripts and Telemarketers do not mix

I hate the telephone. I will write at greater length about this at another time, but for now, just understand I despise communicating (or lack thereof) via telephone. It interrupts peoples lives, demanding that they speak with you when YOU want them to, rather than when is convenient for both of you (unlike email and other text-based forms of communication), and it is even harder for me to process verbal communication without visuals (I tend to lip-read). Plus tone of voice is lost over the telephone, and audio quality stinks. Overall telephones are my least favorite mode of communication, and I will admit to having a rather severe case of telephobia.

Sadly, as I am verbal, they are a necessary evil that I have learned to live with, through a combination of hours of misery and at times abuse by my parents (I once had to sit at a table for 6 hours, in full melt-down mode, because I couldn’t pick up the phone and call a store that my parents demanded I find out the hours of, because they considered it “life skills practice”), and just lots and lots and lots of practice, I’ve gotten to a point where I am capable of using the dreaded object as a mode of communication when necessary, and do it fairly well. I’ve NEVER been good on the phone, and I doubt I ever will be, but usually I can communicate what I need to, and vice versa. I’ve come up with scripts and rules that I follow on the telephone. Always be polite. Don’t eat at the same time you’re talking to someone. Don’t interrupt. And most importantly, NEVER hang up on someone who is in the middle of a sentence. ALWAYS finish the conversation. These are good rules and generally help me survive phone conversations.

However there are exceptions. Although I am on the “do not call” list, telemarketers still sometimes find their way into my life, especially in the form of my internet company calling me up at least once every couple of months trying to sell me the “package” of cable and phone (neither of which I have ANY use for at all, and neither of which I am willing to pay for). Every time they call, I freak out because I worry that my bill is wrong or something like that. Then they start on the sales pitch. I interrupt them at first chance (usually a little while, because I can’t tell conversational stop points well, basically ever, but the phone makes it worse), and say “I’m sorry, I’m not interested in”, to which they reply “but what about if I told you…” and I’m stuck again, listening to their sentence, because my brain says “don’t interrupt”. And I feel bad saying “no”, so I get backed into a corner, trying to say “shut up, I don’t care, I’m not going to buy your product” while they’re pushing and being awful. Phone conversations are terrible. And then I feel bad for being rude, because these people must have a very tough job and get yelled at and hung up on all the time. So I feel worse for saying no. They haven’t gotten me to agree to anything, because I know I don’t want their freaking products, but it’s still very frustrating. Every phone conversation is incredibly draining on my resources, and I wish I had the ability to break my final rule and JUST HANG UP ON THEM the minute they call.

Does anyone else have this issue with telemarketers and/or other annoying people who call you up on the phone and won’t take “NO” for an answer or end the conversation? What do you do in this situation? My current social rules just don’t seem to apply…


  1. Yes I have the same issues with telemarketers, and have even ended up with products I didn’t want because I find it so hard to interrupt and/or say no. I get very pleased with myself when I do manage to say no and hang up. Something else to do, which won’t violate your rules, might be to gently put the phone down on the side and leave it for 10 minutes, so that when you go back to it, they will have ended the conversation and it’s ok to hang up 🙂

    • I love that idea… except it’s violating the “don’t be rude” rule – I used to try to do that with my mother, but she’d get mad if I didn’t “mmhm” and “oh” and “ok” between each sentence. I’ve been trained to keep the darn phone glued to my ear… But it is a spectacular idea! I just feel bad for the people on the other side of the phone – like, it’s their JOB, and they have to deal with rude, obnoxious people all day long. That would *SUCK*

      • Well it sounds like they’re being a bit rude to you, not letting you get a word in, disturbing you at home without an invite, especially when you are on a list of people who don’t want to be called by telemarketers… And I’m sure being ignored is the least rude ‘rude’ thing they get during their day. Another thing I do is to say I’m not the home-owner/I’ve just signed an 18 mth contract for whatever product/I have no debts/my Mum’s not home (I sound young) and that has now become my new script for that situation after a bit of practise 🙂

  2. I have been told that they must honor their “do not call” lists and to get on that list, one simply need say in a firm, but polite voice, the minute they identify themselves, – “I’m sorry but I cannot accept unsolicited calls” then without waiting for them to say more one hangs up. Thereby avoiding the “rude” rule because you sounded appropriately apologetic and in fact you are doing them a tremendous service as they now have more time to make more calls increasing their chances of making a sale!

  3. Try suddenly yelling, “oh my gosh! Just a second!”. Then drop phone, run away loudly, wait for loud noise of phone off hook. They are not offended, you’ve just gotten a tiny aerobic workout, everybody is happy. The truth is you have specifically uninvited them, and yet, they call.

    • Best.Response.Ever!!! Except that I’m usually in a lab or office when they call… maybe that would work… OH MY GOSH, THAT CHEMICAL SHOULD NOT BE SMOKING”… haha

      Thanks for the comment! 🙂

  4. I think everyone eventually gets annoyed with telemarketers. Sometimes an overly zealous salesperson is just asking for it. After you politely say, “Sorry, I’m not interested,” once or twice, the it’s time to have fun.

    You can leave them on hold to see how long they will waste their time… They’re certainly willing to waste yours. Then casually say, “Sorry, I put you on hold for so long…”

    You can also make up a sort of ridiculous scenario. A relative of mine once handled a vacuum salesman by telling him, “We don’t need a vacuum cleaner. We have dirt floors!”

    Try having some fun. It can be a character-building experience to learn to deal with telemarketers. Simply remember it’s your phone. You get to decide how it’s used. There’s nothing rude about somewhat slowly saying, “I’m not interested. Thank you. Good Bye!” and hanging up.

    You have permission to hang up politely like that.

  5. I hear you! I would feel badly for those who are trying to make these unsolicited calls to earn a living and I would not want to be impolite. I say “I am not interested – Please ensure that you remove me from your list,” or if it is someone soliciting for something, my response is an automatic, “I’m sorry, I am unable to help you at this time.” If either of my statements are not effective – I simply repeat them verbatim – without engaging in added conversation. Then I say goodbye – and gently hang up the phone.

  6. Such amazing and creative responses, you all have! My social scripts are being updated fantastically. 🙂 Thanks!

  7. Good post and good topic.

    I dislike phone calls for some of the same reasons you describe: calls are inconvenient interruptions and I struggle to process lengthy verbal information on the phone due to background noise, loss of visual cues, loss of tone of voice, poor audio quality. I pick up key words from the stream of talk, usually very few in the start of the conversation where I haven’t adjusted to the voice yet, and try to extrapolate to the message.

    I especially hate Telemarketing calls. I do understand that these people are just doing their job and don’t call up to bother people, but I think Telemarketing is a rude business that should be illegal.

    Usually, if I realise it is a marketing call I interrupt the caller and stop it from the start. My reject-telemarketing social script is approximately as follows:

    Me: Sorry, is this a sales call?
    Telemarketer: No, it is a… [bla bla… trying to pack it into some lame expression that doesn’t have ‘sale’ in it]
    Me: [interrupt again] Ok, so it is a sales call. Sorry, but I am not interested [try to make a friendly, understanding voice], and I don’t see any reason why we should waste each other’s time.
    Telemarketer: Oh, but did you know that… [starting on more bla bla]
    Me: [interrupt again] No, thank you. I am not interested. Have a nice day, goodbye.

    However, often it takes a while to realise it is a marketing call (because they try to disguise it) while they talk and talk and talk. Especially after applying for jobs or in other ways be prepared for important calls from strangers.

    I happened Yesterday. I received a call and picked up the word ‘research’ and the first name of the lady in the start, and because I recently had a job interview for a research organisation and the lady had the same name as the manager, I thought the call was the result from the job interview and dared not interrupt. I continued to listen through the relentless stream of seemingly irrelevant information, increasingly frustrated while I picked up words like ‘raffle’, ‘fundraising’ and ‘disability’.

    When I realised that it was a marketing call (for a noble cause, but still) I politely said that I have a hearing problem and if she could send the information in writing. She declined and continued to talk, then when I interrupted she suggested I visited their website address, which she spelled out. I couldn’t hear the address either (and wasn’t interested) and because she had been allowed to talk so much already, she was very hard to stop although I told he directly that I deal poorly with phone conversations and couldn’t her and wasn’t interested.

  8. It’s NOT just tele-marketers – they’re bad – but real life sales people – they’re even worse. I usually do NOT let myself get suckered in – usually just say no and keep on walking – but about a month ago I let myself be suckered in with the offer of something free – something for nothing? …Golden rule: If it sounds to good to be true it usually is!!! … by the time I ‘escaped’ I was SO SO angry that I had allowed myself to be suckered in and my time wasted by someone who at first seemed to be really nice but ended up only really being interested in my money 😦 … Probably the MOST helpful thing I could say is that THESE people, the SALESPEOPLE … they are already breaking EVERY good social rule/script out. They are not interested in you. All they want is to be able to give their ‘script’ try to convince you to spend some money. They do NOT want your opinion – they will ask for it BUT if it doesn’t match up with theirs – then they will be intent on changing your opinion til it conforms with what they want… they do not leave pauses in conversations for anyone to interrupt. They have their own special interest they’re obsessed with – problem is they don’t JUST want you to listen to them speaking about it – they want you to BUT something. Be as firm / rude as you want because they are NOT respecting you! … they are trying to engage in 1 way communication NOT an exchange of information. And I suspect that we, as Aspies, are even more clueless with how to deal with them and also more prone to getting worked up about the whole thing that NTs! … sorry – that rant was a bit long 😦

  9. You are totally allowed to interrupt telemarketers. “Not interested, thanks, bye” — hang up. It does not matter if they are still talking. This is, in my opinion, even the most polite response. You are actually doing them a favour — they don’t waste time blabbering to a person who is not interested.
    They are the equivalent of spam e-mails, and they have the aggression to enter your space, so shutting them off is totally acceptable, as it is not to reply to spam e-mail, and they can handle that easily! I am sure these people are not the oversensitive type and they don’t grieve over the rejection for the rest of the day. 🙂

  10. So, let me get this straight: if the phone rings, I am suppose to answer? Not happening : ) I will answer the works phone to conduct business– but even that is a rarity. I really don’t use phones. I do have my Blackberry– text, twitter, and phone my wife at night if I am on an all night shift.

    • I always freak out if the phone rings and I don’t recognize the number… I know I *should* screen calls, and call back the necessary ones, but I can almost never convince myself to call back… so I answer right off. Plus, it might be important. I’m even worse at initiating phone calls than I am at answering them.

      • Oh, I do have an app on my phone that lights up different colours for each person who would have anything important to relay to me. Usually, those with designated colours for their calls know to text me, as I’m usually working with someone whom a phone ringing would send straight to overload.

  11. I usually end up if they push getting stuck in a verbal no loop where I can’t stop saying no or go away or something.

  12. You are doing a salesperson/ telemarketer a favour if you end the conversation quickly with a “Sorry, I’m not interested”, as that allows them to move on to someone else who may be interested, and therefore they may make a sale. It is not rude to hang up after this simple statement, and it is not rude to interrupt them to save them the time of going through their whole spiel.
    Another tactic is to let it go to voice mail. If it’s someone who really needs to get ahold of you, they will leave a message. Generally, sales people and telemarketers will not leave a message.

  13. I was going to say basically the same thing as Lisa. Having been a telemarketer (a zillion years ago), I can tell you that for the most part, they work on commission. If you have no intention of purchasing what they are selling, it is perfectly acceptable to interrupt them and terminate the conversation. In fact, they would prefer you did, so they could move on. One thing I would add to that is that yes, they are working off a script, and it is quite often a fireable offense if they do not at least try to give a certain number of “rebuttals”. Where I used to work, we were supposed to do 3. So, by cutting the conversation short, you really are doing them a favour. It isn’t rude, it’s really ok.

    However, I’m horrible at saying no myself, so I just don’t answer the phone if I don’t know who it is. If it’s important, they’ll leave a message and I’ll call or text them back later!

    • Thanks! It’s super interesting to hear from an “insider” perspective.

  14. Ha! I can totally relate! My diagnosis finally gave me the permission I needed to acknowledge my loathing of the damn telephone, but for me too it is a necessary evil. Telephone sales people, I’m afraid, are particularly high on my scale of loathing, because of their wheedling and manipulation, and general failure to speak the truth.

    I too have tried years of being polite, trying to reason with them, and hold rational conversations… and all the rest of that. But now: high on my loathing scale they might be, but low on my list-of-people-I-need-to-impress too. I feel vaguely apologetic to them as individuals, trying to do their jobs, but I reckon they know what they’re into well before they get round to ringing me, and I have happily reached the stage of “Nope, not interested” phone down. Hard to do to begin with, but deeply satisfying once the technique has been perfected!

  15. Time is money for telemarketers. If you are not interested and their sales pitch has no hopes for success. It is better to end the call so that they can make another call. So say thank you I am not interested and hang up. You are doing them a favor by not wasting their time.

  16. My husband has similar issues with telemarketers and even worse problems with door to door sales people, he simply can’t say no to them. I tend to take over and just shut the door in their faces.

    On topic, for telemarketers, I put the phone down, not hang up, just leave them talking and walk away to continue my day. About 30 minutes later I go back and check if they are still talking, so far that has never happened, then I hang up.

  17. I do business to business telemarketing asit’s the only self-employed job I can do. I can’t do all that much.

  18. Oh how I despise the dreaded telephone, and worse, telemarketers. Thankfully I now only have a mobile phone and very rarely recieve those calls. However, I always seem to get hounded by sales representatives and promotional people at the shopping centre. Previously I would always stop for them and listen to their sales pitch, walking away red faced and feeling bad after declining their offer. Nowadays I have discovered the art of saying “I have that already”. I find this response works really well and tends to keep everyone happy.

  19. I either don’t answer the phone, say “nope, not interested” and hang up or hang up without saying anything.

  20. Hmm, I’ve been a recipient of telemarketing calls, as well as a telemarker…Sadly, no-one ever told me to f*** off, it’s astonishing how polite people are when you call them on the phone. But it is perfectly acceptable to say f*** off and slam down the phone- in fact, it would have made my day much easier and my sales higher…To understand why, feel free to go hereand sincere apologies for any calls you may have received, or may yet receive, from telemarketers…

    • Thanks for the comment! Indeed, the most recent times I’ve gotten telemarketing calls, I have said “I’m going to stop you right there. You aren’t going to sell me anything, sorry. Bye!” And most of them have been surprised and hung up.

  21. If it’s telemarketers, I will even be “rude” and just disconnect the call. That will discourage them from calling you again. 🙂

    Phone calls… I know that I used to struggle with them. But, I have somehow mastered this fear because I have to make lots of them during my time in OT- from talking to potential supervisor for my fieldwork placements, to calling the department office, to calling some people I connected online and meeting them at OT conferences for the first time, to calling potential/current clients. Believe it or not, I did that a lot during my hand therapy OT fieldwork (which was my last one before my licensing exam), to calling related to my OT license.

    The situation is like this. The clinic is always extremely busy. So, my clinical instructor, her fellow co-workers, and I will take turns making phone calls to the clients and answering their phone calls, too. I took mental notes of how my co-workers did it and tried to do the same when I had to get the phone calls. If I did great, my clinical instructor and her co-workers were happy. If I did something wrong, they wouldn’t mind taking their time when the clinic is not busy to give me feedback.

    This can be overcome. You just need people who are willing to help you and give you feedback. 🙂

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