The Five “Why’s” of Leaving Messages

“Ninety percent of all those who fail are not actually defeated. They simply quit.” Paul J. Meyer

So pleased this quote landed in my inbox. While it certainly supports my thoughts on persistence last week, it also applies to this week’s topic – leaving messages.

Over the past decade, and particularly during the last two years, there’s been a slow and subtle shift around phone messages. The change began with the proliferation of answering machines and voicemail, then the addition of call display and now … the reality that it is no longer rude to not return messages.

Not that long ago, if you had received three messages from someone and did not attempt to return their calls, that would have been rude. It was an accepted standard of business behaviour. While there were extenuating circumstances – business travel, health issues, vacation – it was often the case that someone else returned the call – out of politeness – to explain the situation.

Obviously that’s not the world we’re living in any more. As you’ve heard me say more than once – and will likely hear me say again – most of us are simply overwhelmed with email, reports, deadlines, travel … and with phone messages.

Today, not returning calls is not rude – it’s simply a fact of the world we have created which has numerous communication methods and an incredibly hectic pace.

So … does this mean you should stop leaving messages? No – but you do need to change your attitude about them.

Here’s the five why’s of leaving messages:

1)     When you call someone, your phone number does show up on their call display. A phone number without a message is … rude. Or at the very least, it labels you as a pushy salesperson/telemarketer who isn’t even proud enough of their product/service to leave a message.

2)     For some individuals there is a strong emotional reaction to phone numbers with no message attached. I learned this from a woman in a workshop who shared her experience of getting out of  a violent relationship, leaving her fearful and anxious about calls with no message.

3)     Email is also missing the mark. Inboxes are too full; a message can easily be buried for months. A combination of email and voicemail will offer better odds of being “heard”.

4)     Voicemail messages contain … you! They include the sound of your voice which offers the possibility of relationship. Your words and your tone hold your desire, your interest, your excitement about speaking with the person. This has always been – and will continue to be – motivating for the listener.

5)     Most of us start each day with a to-do list. Many of us have to revise that list several times before the day is done. A voicemail message can, and does, keep you and returning your call on that list … although it may not make the Top Ten as quickly as you’d like.

Second, rather than feel defeated by the fact that your messages are not being returned, change how you view the process. For me, although I still pick up the phone with a clear image that someone’s going to answer (I know, that’s hard to believe, isn’t it – talk about optimistic!), I leave messages because they are part of the communication process, not because I expect them to be returned.

Hearing your voice, knowing you want to reach them, continually and politely contacting them, not taking offence at their inability to return your call … this speaks very loudly about who you are, who you will be to work with, your diligence, persistence and desire to be of service.

Don’t quit leaving messages. Instead, change your understanding of why they contribute to your success.

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

0 thoughts on “The Five “Why’s” of Leaving Messages”

    • Thanks so much, Steve. You were REALLY listening! Since we first met, unreturned messages have become even more of a standard so pleased to hear that you are persisting and that you know the difference it is making to your business. Thanks for sharing!

  1. Mary Jane, Good insight as always. Leaving a voice mail is the way to go. It speaks to your commitment to your product or service. Call me old fashioned. Not returning a phone call is rude in my books. It is not rude however to ignore emails “sent to multiple recipients”

  2. I still think it’s rude not to respond to someone…even if it’s by email. That is why I usually leave options for the person I’m leaving a voicemail message for. After all, it is about how the other person wants to communicate – not what’s best for us!

  3. The simple idea that if you do not leave a message is one we use on our home phone as well. If the caller does not leave a message it was not important or they are a trying to sell us something.
    My staff and I have been trained to leave messages

    • Thanks, Glenn for sharing your story about how you deal with calls at home that have no message attached. It is how so many of us react and so important for everyone to understand.

  4. Thanks MJ, I am one of those who still gets frustrated when my voice messages are not returned. I know as you say that I need to change my attitude, some day I will get there. Sending emails along with voice messages definitely helps. As usual you ROCK! Cheers!

    • Thanks, Paul, for your lovely comment. So appreciated! And yes, it is frustrating but you are right, combining email with a message is an excellent strategy.

    • Thanks, Eddie, for your comment on the post. I find I learn something new to write about phone communication almost everyday!

  5. With having so much content do you ever run into any issues of plagiarism or copyright violation?
    My site has a lot of unique content I’ve either authored myself or outsourced but it appears a lot of it is popping it up all over the web without my permission.
    Do you know any ways to help reduce content from being stolen?

    I’d truly appreciate it.

    • Thanks, Yolo, for your comments. I haven’t noticed that my content is being “stolen” – but I’m also not doing regular searches to find out. The content I’m creating is certainly reaching my target market and allowing me to grow my business, so that’s where I continue to focus. I am curious, though, about the point you bring up and I will share it with my followers to see if anyone has some advice to share. mj


Leave a comment

What's The Phone Lady doing?


  • Remote learning experiences + one-on-one coaching for women entrepreneurs (More info about this three-year program here.)
  • Team and individual coaching with a national moving company to refine their sales process
  • Remote half-day training for provincial tourism representatives
  • Remote seven-part sales training program for US-based SaaS
  • Remote webinar on accounts receivable communication for industrial-services company
  • Remote webinar on validation to college students in entrepreneur program
  • In-person workshop on job search skills for women in the trades
  • Remote half-day webinar on written correspondence to customers

Do you or your team want to improve your communication skills? Do you have a communication question or challenge you'd like to discuss? This quick-to-fill-out form is easy to use and you'll hear from Mary Jane very soon.