It amazes me how often people shut out common sense when it comes to communicating on the telephone. It also amazes me how texting and tweeting has in many ways replaced telephone communication. It’s not that those forms of communication are bad, but there is still value in using the phone.
#1. Slow down and articulate your words. We speak to folks who have hearing problems or folks with heavy accents. It is considerate to think of the listener and how they are able to receive accurate information. It is especially vital when giving numbers that you state your numbers clearly, and you ask to have the numbers repeated back to you. You know very well that if you were calling in with a winning lottery ticket and they needed to record the number of the ticket, you would be VERY clear, loud enough to be heard, and very articulate.
#2. If you leave a message on an answering machine or recording device, start with whatever short greeting you prefer, such as “Hello” or “Good morning,” followed by your name and phone number twice. Then you can say “Please call at your convenience,” or you can leave a SHORT message regarding the subject of your call. If the listener needs to replay the message to get your name or phone number correctly, it’s at the beginning of the message and not the end.
#3. Whether the message is social or business, BE CONSIDERATE of the person receiving the phone call. Most people are very busy. If they are retrieving numerous messages at that time, they really don’t want to listen to a lengthy message, especially filled with filler words, such as “and ummm, uh, well then …” or “Oh no, I just spilled my water all over the place ….” Oftentimes my friends will leave me a long, rambling message, and I will end up listening to half of it because it’s just not urgent. I’m busy. Do I feel guilty? NO. Why should I feel guilty if they leave a silly long message and I focus on my time schedule. It seems that when I do cut the message short, i.e. hang up in the middle of it in order to get through my other messages, it never is a problem. Speaking later to that person clarifies the communication.
#4. When you call someone and you get through, start by asking, “Is this a good time to talk?” It’s common courtesy that puts the other person at ease if it is not convenient. You are also modeling that kind of beginning communication so that perhaps the person who answered the phone will also remember to be considerate of people they call.
#5. If you leave information on your answering machine or recording, be as succinct as possible. Things like “I’m so sorry that I missed your call, and your call is very important to me.” “I look forward to talking to you later and I hope you have a wonderful day.” Believe it or not, extra words do take time, and again, for busy people it can be a bit much. Assume the world wants you to have a nice day. I have one friend who says on his message, “Hi, it’ me. You know the drill.” That’s it. OK, so he is not in business; only social calls. But it’s short and really easy for me to leave a message.
#6. Be aware of your mood, voice and energy. Smile. You would be amazed how a smile conveys a more upbeat tone on the phone. Make a conscious effort to be warm and friendly. If you naturally speak softly and in a monotone, be conscious of that and make a concerted effort to liven up your message. Speaking of your mood and energy, if you are having a rather difficult, challenging (ok – miserable) day, when someone asks how you are, you can say GREAT! Messages like “Not too bad,” or “ok,” “Well, it’s almost Friday” are so negative. If you observe highly successful people, you almost never hear that kind of response. They are always terrific. Perhaps some bad luck fell their way or they’re recouping from a knee injury, but THEY are fine. That’s all anyone wants to hear anyway. Save your problems, downers for either a close friend, a coach, mentor, or confidant.
#7. When you are talking to someone, be conscious of your words. Don’t babble – “Let’s see, where did I put that pen? I just had one over here … umm, oh, here’s one. Oh, no, it doesn’t write.” You get the idea. Inane chatter is irritating to the person listening to that. Focus on what your listener would like to hear. Remember, communication is about them. If you are in a business environment, avoid phrases like “you guys.” When I am looking to hire some help, some people will call and say in a high, fast, whiny voice, “Are you guys still looking to hire someone? I answer no, us guys have filled the position.
#8. Check your messages. Oftentimes you might call and want to leave a message if the recipient is not in. “I’m sorry, the message box is full and cannot receive any more messages.” Frustrating, and what if one of the earlier messages (or yours) is extremely urgent? Of course there’s texting, email, etc. to handle some of those challenges. Check your outgoing message recording often unless you never change it. Hopefully it’s not July and your message is, “Hello, we will be out of town Easter weekend. We will get back to you after we return.”