Mary Ann Hogan
Chips Quinn Writing Coach
I put out calls on several stories at once hoping they’ll trickle back as I need them. But I always seem to be on the line with Least Important Caller when Most Important Caller calls back. I have to tell Least Important Caller, “I have to take a very important call. Can we do the rest of the interview another time?” Problem is, I feel rude. Is there a more tactful way to handle this? — Rudy the Rude
You’re right: Letting it be known that there’s an order of importance to your calls is, well, rude. Fortunately, you have a built-in excuse — The News Emergency. When Most Important Caller calls, very politely (but firmly) tell Least Important: “I’m sorry. I’ll have to get right back with you; I have a news emergency on the other line.”
Most people will understand. If they don’t, just let it go. Do not explain that the emergency is getting Least Important off the phone as quickly as possible.
And remember, call Least Important back to finish the interview as soon as time permits.