How to politely decline giving out cell number
July 4, 2017 2:54 PM   Subscribe

How can I turn down requests for my cell number from acquaintances who want to ramp up relationship to friend level?

I'm polite to everyone at work and other get togethers but some people are really irritating. There's no need to be rude to them but there will be no friendship.

If they ask for my number, I just give it now and sweat for days wondering if they're going to call and text me soon.

Is there a way to decline or am I stuck with giving it out? What about "you can't control what others do but you can control how you'll react?" I don't want to give out my number...but don't want to hurt well meaning folks.

I can't just say "I only give it to close friends" when they hope we're friends. If I were to tell them the truth, it would be, "It's bad enough I have to see you here everyday, I certainly don't want to hear from you outside these hours".
posted by Coffeetyme to Human Relations (22 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
There's nothing rude about saying, "I'm sorry, I don't give that number out." You don't need more of a reason or explanation. You don't give out your phone number - simple as that.

If you're at all interested in communicating, give them a way to contact you that doesn't make you anxious, like email. But you don't have to do that, and you're not rude for not wanting to share your cell number.
posted by darchildre at 3:08 PM on July 4, 2017 [9 favorites]

I say (apologetically) that I am on an information diet and that I put my phone into a "do not disturb" mode when at home, so here is my number but you may not get a response until the next day. It lowers people's expectations in terms of my accessibility by phone as well as signals that my life is complicated and that I am not as social as they had hoped me to be, without being rude.
posted by rada at 3:08 PM on July 4, 2017 [38 favorites]

Best answer: I'm not sure there really is a polite way to decline - I mean, you can definitely just say no thank you, but I expect the other person might come away offended (which is not the end of the world). Captain Awkward covers topics like this a lot - here's a similar recent column.
posted by cpatterson at 3:09 PM on July 4, 2017 [2 favorites]

If you're really that reluctant to turn these people away, get yourself a free Google Voice number and give that number to acquaintances. You can forward those calls to your cell, or simply check messages at your leisure. Simple, non-confrontational, and you remain in control.
posted by peakcomm at 3:10 PM on July 4, 2017 [29 favorites]

How about "email is the best way to reach me, here let me give that to you!"
posted by belau at 3:14 PM on July 4, 2017 [58 favorites]

What belau said. "I have no mobile reception at home. Here's my email!"

This completely works. I have literally never given out my number ever.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:19 PM on July 4, 2017 [25 favorites]

Count me as another person who never gives out her number in a non-work (i.e someone wants to hire me) environment. I will usually say "I literally never answer the phone, catch up with me on facebook?" or something similar.

What about "you can't control what others do but you can control how you'll react?"

You can also give them your number and ignore their calls/texts. The "sweat for days" thing is the part that you can control reaction-wise. It's hard because you care about their feelings but in some cases there will just be conflicts between their feelings and yours if they want a friendship[ and you do not. Maybe you feel hamstrung by manners in that if they contact you you'll feel duty-bound to start up a conversation with them? However, you don't have to, you can at any point in time discontinue the interactions you are having.

If you want to soft pedal it you can tell people you have a pretty busy life outside of work or whatever and then just ignore calls/texts and be vague when they talk to you at work. if someone's rude about it "Oh so I guess you don't want to be friends?" that's sort of on them.
posted by jessamyn at 3:54 PM on July 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Sorry, it's not my phone, my boss provides it. Happens in my case to be true, but nobody has ever pushed past that.
posted by Bringer Tom at 4:08 PM on July 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Get their phone number instead. Then just never call. If you happen to bump into them again, wow, you've just been flat out busy and haven't really had time. Rinse, repeat. They'll get the idea.
posted by Jubey at 7:02 PM on July 4, 2017 [2 favorites]

Maybe this is just me, but I actually finding asking someone's number pretty...presumptuous, or something like that. I give people my number if I want to be friends, and I find others do the same. That way whoever gives the number leaves it open for the other person to never actually contact them but avoids the potential awkwardness of rejection. That doesn't really help with your situation, but maybe you could turn it around and ask for their number instead? Except then it's possible they'll misinterpret it as meaning you want to be in touch.

The best solution, though, is probably either:

1) say "sorry, I don't really give out my number" and recognize you have every right to say that, or

2) offer an alternative method of contacting you, like Facebook or email.
posted by ersatzhuman at 7:14 PM on July 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

Please don't give a number and then never answer. That just strikes me as horrifically inconsiderate. You have every right to say you don't give out your phone number. People might find that a bit strange, but you're not inconveniencing anyone.
posted by FencingGal at 8:36 PM on July 4, 2017 [2 favorites]

Maybe this is a Millenial Thing(tm), but I've never had someone balk if I said "Oh, I never answer my phone -- here's my email/Twitter/whatever." This works well if it is specifically the possibility of a phone call or text that is stressing you out, and you feel comfortable with other communication methods. (I also don't sweat giving out my email or social media handles because for me those are all super google-able anyway.)

If I didn't want to give someone any openings for contacting me at all, I'd say something like (in a really friendly tone), "Sorry, I'm super private," maybe with an added self-deprecating joke about how when I'm not at work I'm a hermit or I spend every weekend reading three novels in perfect silence or something. If I wanted to make sure they knew I still wanted to be friendly at work, I'd probably also say something like, "But let's definitely talk about [thing they wanted to call about] next week" or "But I can't wait to hear all about how your social person's weekend turns out!"
posted by CtrlAltDelete at 9:34 PM on July 4, 2017 [2 favorites]

I connect on Facebook or give out my email-- I keep FB for exactly that purpose. "Oh, I hate the phone since I have to answer it so much at work. FB messenger is the way to go."
posted by frumiousb at 9:47 PM on July 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

Agree with it being understandable to want to keep your circle of friends intimate and keep your work and personal life separate. The irrational part is the "sweating for days" anticipating a call or text from someone. And I used to do that/still do to an extent, I feel where you're coming from. Most reasonable working people are not going think much about an unreturned call or text from a casual acquaintance...

Besides email, there really is no way in most situations to flat out refuse a co-worker an opportunity to include you in future social activities without hurting their feelings a bit. But being straightforward and slightly self-effacing will save both parties an awkward encounter, hurt feelings, and all that unneeded drama.

So even though I often feel like you, when someone asks for my number I say "sure", smile genuinely, and say something like "My schedule is hectic nowadays and I'm usually beat by the time I get home. I might not get back to you right away but yeah it would be cool to ________ sometime when our schedules align."

That maintains a friendly relationship without unfairly leading on that you're likely to get together any time soon. It's also happens to be the truth for many people much of the time, so not exactly suspicious; even though they know your work schedule they don't know your private life.

I overthink these things too as if you can't tell, but when it comes down to it, but again, the control part doesn't have to be "control over who contacts you". It should be control over expectations and your response. Get a call or text from someone and feel put on the spot? "Thanks for the invitation. I'm a bit drained so I'll have to pass for tonight. I appreciate it though.." Probably the last thing you'll have to say to them again unless you reciprocate.

These things almost never turn out to be as big of a deal as they seem. I use the same response for acquaintances and close friends alike.
posted by WhitenoisE at 10:33 PM on July 4, 2017

I have an extra Google Voice number I give out to people who I feel I have to give a number to, but don't want to answer. It is set on do not disturb. If they actually call, I usually text them back much later saying something like, "No cell reception. I just saw this. Will see you tomorrow in the office. GN."
posted by AugustWest at 10:38 PM on July 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

"I only use my phone for work-related purposes, sorry. Instead, here's my FB page! Let's connect there!"

Hopefully, they shouldn't press beyond that. Personally, I hate phone calls because of hearing issues, and I can never hear it ring anyways.
posted by spinifex23 at 11:46 PM on July 4, 2017

If you need an excuse, there are still people who have very limited plans minutes-wise, or use pre-paid phones. Or only have the phone for emergency use. This includes people who could otherwise afford a larger plan, because they just don't use their phone that much. Instead, they rely on things like FB Messenger.

I would hope that an acquaintance would understand and respect that.
posted by spinifex23 at 11:50 PM on July 4, 2017

Best answer: I had business cards printed with my first name and an email address. I give them out when someone asks me for my contact info. If I really want to interact with someone, I write my phone# on the card.
posted by james33 at 4:22 AM on July 5, 2017 [4 favorites]

Plenty of people these days don't use their phone number as their preferred method of communication.

Telling someone "Email (or twitter, facebook, etc) is the best way to reach me " without offering any other explanation is pretty common these days.
posted by libraryrat at 5:09 AM on July 5, 2017

"I never answer my phone -- just hit me up on linked in"
posted by empath at 9:00 AM on July 5, 2017

"I never answer my phone, that's a terrible way to get a hold of me, use X instead" is good because it addresses the ostensible purpose of their request and shuts it down without being personal. You can add "I honestly hate using the phone, so I just don't give out that number anymore" if someone insists on further explanation.
posted by desuetude at 2:57 PM on July 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

1. Sometimes I pretend I can never remember my number, so I take theirs instead, promising to text or call . And of course, never do.


2. I give out my number, record theirs and block it immediately
posted by Kwadeng at 12:46 AM on July 7, 2017

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