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English is my 2nd language and I need your advice on this little awkward moment I had with a lady on the phone today. She left a voice message so I was returning her call.

Me: Hi. I'm ** returning the phone call from Ms. #####

Lady (on the phone): Hi. How are you? Thanks for calling me back!

Me: Yeah..Good to talk to you!

At this very moment, I felt a little awkward reaction from her. It seems like my comment "Good to talk to you" at that moment was not appropriate.

And then at last she said, "Look forward to seeing you Saturday!" and I said "Same here!"

How about this response? Is this also awkward?

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There are a lot of nonsense lines in English-language conversation. For some reason, "Good talking to you" tends to go at the end ("Glad to talk to you" at the beginning), but really, anything you say that isn't outright babble is probably fine.

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  • Agreed, there's a lot of unnecessary small talk in most English-speaking cultures. Her awkward reaction was probably due to the fact that you said "Good to talk to you" at the beginning of the conversation, which is almost always used right before saying "goodbye" normally. It's far from a faux-pas and I doubt she even remembered half a day later. Replying "Same here!" isn't awkward at all, as long as it makes sense in context -- us natives mix up our pointless small talk lines all the time. "You too!" after "Please come again soon!" is a pretty common and amusing one. – Crazy Eyes Jul 7 '15 at 16:50
  • @CrazyEyes -- I would disagree with "unnecessary". Small talk serves a purpose -- it is a bonding exercise and a social lubricant -- even if that purpose is not exchange of information. – Malvolio Jul 7 '15 at 16:51
  • I'm a programmer, so if I had my way we would just be a hivemind because I consider social niceties an obstacle at best to "real" communication. It's best not to take my philosophy regarding social behavior seriously. – Crazy Eyes Jul 7 '15 at 16:53
  • If you are a programmer, you should study the TCP protocol. There is a whole bunch of stuff that isn't actual data transmission; it serves other purposes, like security and error-correction. You don't object to those "niceties", do you? – Malvolio Jul 7 '15 at 19:01
  • I think one of us is taking this discussion more seriously than the other participant. Regardless, it's not appropriate to equate security verification and error-correction with "How are you doing?" They're not the same thing. If you really want to get in this, start up a chat and I'll join you. Also, remember my point was that English in particular has a lot of unnecessary small talk, not that all small talk is unnecessary. – Crazy Eyes Jul 7 '15 at 19:03
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It seems to me that in the context of your conversational exchange, the utterance

"Hi. How are you? Thanks for calling me back!"

was probably anticipating a response along the lines of

"Thanks, I'm fine, and you're welcome. What can I do for you?"

As Malvolio observed earlier, "Good talking to you" customarily comes at the end of a call, where it functions as a phatic closer to the conversation. So I suspect that your interlocutor may have felt that your response violated two unwritten rules of telephone etiquette.

However, nowadays native speakers of English often find themselves talking to non-natives, especially in a business setting, so they are accustomed to making allowances for such verbal lapses.

This one, which is pretty minor, probably isn't worth losing any sleep over -- that is, unless you have other reasons to believe it cost you a multi-million-dollar contract, your job, and the respect of your bosses, your spouse and your dog...

To answer the last part of your question -- I think your contribution to the exchange about seeing each other on Saturday was fine in terms of its tone, despite the fact that it does not stand scrutiny regarding its logic.

This is because it is in effect saying that you too are looking forward to seeing yourself on Saturday.

It therefore has something in common with another formulaic but logically incoherent conversational exchange:

"I love you, darling!"

"Me too!"

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    A great, comprehensive answer with a great sense of humour! If only I could give it +2... alas a +1 will have to do ;-) – Lucky Jul 7 '15 at 14:47
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I was thoroughly indoctrinated by both of my grandmothers, that the only appropriate response to a "Thank you" was "you're welcome", and that's what I'd have used instead of "Yeah." I'm coming to accept "no problem" as an alternative to "you're welcome", only because I interpret it (perhaps wrongly) as a borrowing from the Mexican Spanish "de nada" in the same situation. I would not be likely to use it myself, though; both my Grandmothers were very fond of me, but still, you would have had to know them to know how formidable those women were.

"Same here" at the conclusion of a conversation seems a little awkward to me, too, but not enough for it to be unacceptable to me.

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There are many possible responses to someone thanking you:

  1. You're welcome (as mentioned by brasshat)
  2. Not at all
  3. My pleasure (or 'The pleasure is mine')
  4. Not a problem (or 'No problem', or 'No worries, mate' if you're Australian)
  5. (Say nothing)

I wasn't quite brought up to say 'You're welcome' and for a long time that sounded very 'American' to me, and I was more accustomed to (2) or (3). I think saying nothing is fine particularly if it was a minor thanking point, and you can go straight to the business of the call.

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In the situation at hand the correct way to reply would be:

Me: Good [Morning/afternoon]. I'm ** from [company name] and I'm returning the phone call from Ms. #####

Lady (on the phone): Hi. How are you? Thanks for calling me back!

Me: I'm good thank you, yourself? And you're welcome, what can I do for you?

The opening greeting always needs to be professional, after that it can drop formailities depending on the caller.

Hope this helps :)

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