When you're talking to someone on the phone, and that person gets another call that person will put you on hold. Being put on hold is a common occurence these days. One shouldn't take it too personally as almost everyone today has call waiting or multiple telephone lines. If the person you were talking to is polite he or she will tell the incoming call that s/he is unable to talk as they are already in the middle of a conversation with you. However, an increasingly common scenario is that the person you were talking to leaves you on hold for an extended period of time while s/he converses with the person who interrupted your original conversation.

People don't generally like to be put on hold. It's bad enough when a corporation puts an individual on hold, forcing them to listen to canned elevator music interspersed with comments like, "Your call is important to us. Please continue to hold. We will be with you shortly." To have friends or family put them on hold can only make them feel worse.

When a person is put on hold, it implies that the other unknown caller (most likely a telemarketer) is more important than the conversation already in progress. It's just plain rude. If I'm talking to you, I want to be the focus of your attention. (Hmmm, now I understand what my wife's been talking about all these years. I guess I'll have to buy her flowers -- right after the game is over.) Many different Time Management and Assertiveness Training courses (arguably "brainwashing" courses) will tell you not to answer that incoming call, as it instantly degrades the communication process of the original call. The person has just been interrupted and may need to rebuild their train of thought before they can advance to their main idea and conclusion. That's aggravating.

If you find yourself in the situation of having that second call come in, ask yourself this simple question -- before you put someone on hold and take that call: "Is this person more important to me at this particular moment than the person calling on my other line?" Before you answer that, think what would happen if you didn't have that other line. The second caller would receive a busy signal, and try again later. You would still be able to talk with them, and it wouldn't have interrupted the original conversation.

Cogita ante salis. Think before you leap. William Ernest Henley once penned, "I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul." My time is valuable. If I suddenly find myself listening to dead air, waiting for someone to come back to the conversation, I may find myself pondering their apparently misguided values, and wonder why I'm talking to them in the first place.

And if they put me on hold, I'll simply hang up. I have better things to do.

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