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Social Etiquette and Good Manners/Is It Rude to Not Call Someone Back Right Away?


Good day Nancy,

I have a 50 year old friend who is always "on me." The day I came back from my vacation, she was already "on me", calling me at my home and work phone, inviting me to an event and saying she hopes we can get together on the coming weekend. She asks me to be get together with most weekends. In addition, she has asked me to take her places because she doesn't drive. This is getting annoying.

I do not want to return her phone call for several days. Is this rude? Can you provide any tips on handling this situation in a decent manner?

Thank you.

Dear Liz:  

Thank you for your question.

There is no established rule that defines the time frame in which we must return a phone call, but there is a rule of common courtesy that eventually we should do so. Also, we should do everything in our power not allow our polite behavior to be changed by the annoying behavior or rudeness of someone else, so please continue to be the courteous person that you are and return the calls. By returning the calls promptly, you will avoid the dread that probably hangs over your head for the several days that you are now delaying. As with most unpleasant things that we must do, it's better just to get it over with!

When you return the calls and are on the phone with this individual, be brief and "matter of fact" when you decline her invitations.  I don't recommend that you lie to her about specific conflicts in your schedule; merely say that you are not available on the date in question or politely state that you don't have an interest in the activity that she suggests. Eventually, she will stop the barrage or, at least, her calls won't come as frequently. And, because honesty is the best policy, if she doesn't get the hint from suggestions mentioned above, let her know that you are not comfortable with her frequent calls--it's not the style of communication with friends that works for you.  

Social Etiquette and Good Manners

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Nancy Mitchell


Social etiquette; Business etiquette; Entertaining etiquette; Wedding etiquette; Protocol, domestic (US) and international; Flag etiquette; Dining etiquette; Restaurant etiquette; Spa etiquette; Travel etiquette


Nancy R. Mitchell is a nationally recognized etiquette and protocol consultant and trainer with more than 30 years of experience in the field. She owns the firm The Etiquette Advocate and is an owner and founding partner of the firm Protocol Partners-Washington Center for Protocol. Currently, she is an adjunct faculty member at The George Washington University, where she developed and teaches protocol courses in the School of Business and the Career Center, and at Stratford University, Falls Church, VA. She serves also as protocol and special events consultant to the Library of Congress, the world’s largest library and cultural center. For 23 years, Mitchell was director of special events and protocol at the Library of Congress where she and her staff were responsible for planning and managing over 400 events each year. She coordinated the institution’s major special events, visits of heads of state and other distinguished visitors, galas, conferences and meetings. As the Library’s chief protocol advisor, Mitchell served as liaison to the White House, U.S Department of State, the Congress, the Supreme Court and other government agencies, embassies, academia and corporations.

Protocol and Diplomacy - International Protocol Association

Mitchell is quoted on matters of etiquette and protocol by CNN, ABC Nightline, Martha Stewart Living Radio, The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Washington Business Journal, the Associated Press and Washingtonian magazine, has been featured on ABC Good Morning America, Fox News and National Public Radio, and is an etiquette columnist for, etiquette consultant to Alexandria Woman and to Engaged! magazine, and technical editor of Wedding Etiquette for Dummies (Wiley, 2010).

B.S., University of Utah, 1969

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