I just hung up on a caller who totally deserved it. It wasn’t just that my landline only seems to serve salespeople and scammers these days, or because of her heavy accent. It was because she sucked at communicating by phone. That, and I swear this really happened, there was a rooster crowing in the background.
Whether you’re a Manic Impressive or a hardcore introvert, it’s important to communicate well over the phone. Sure, a lot of people only use their phones to text, but a skilled human voice over the telephone can be a very powerful thing.
You can inspire and move someone to action, or you can suck and annoy the bejabbers out of people. Either way, there are a few things to consider before you pick up the phone.
Master Your Instrument
Your voice is your instrument, and to play it well, you need to support it. To get the best quality sound you must breathe from your diaphragm and let the sound resonate throughout your chest.
The diaphragm is that muscle that lies horizontally below your abdomen, that allows you to push air through your lungs and out your face. If you pretend to blow out a candle, you can feel it working just below your belly button.
This is where you should breathe from if you want a quality sound. If you don’t, you’ll end up with a much thinner, more nasally tone, and sacrifice the quality of your voice. And that can be shrill and annoying for others to listen to.
So before you begin speaking, take a good-sized breath, support it from your diaphragm, and use your instrument to its fullest.
Cut Out The Annoying Sounds And Words
We all do this to an extent. While we’re thinking of what we’re trying to say, we’ll stall a bit with an “uhm” or an “ahh.” These filler sounds do not help our cause. Far better to just pause, then resume your speaking when you have the right word in your mouth ready to go.
This will take some thought and practice, though.
But while you’re at it, watch out for the clichés and overused expressions. If you’re saying, “You know what I’m saying?” more than once in a conversation, you’re testing your audience’s patience.
The same goes for tired words like, “whatever,” “basically” and “literally,” or worn out phrases like, “it is what it is” or “at the end of the day.”
Please stop calling other people “snowflake”, and if you catch yourself saying, “no offense, but…”, know that you’re probably about to offend someone. And don’t even think of saying “totes.” That’s just begging to be slapped.
Align Your Tone With Your Message
I was on the phone with a bureaucracy the other day and had been transferred to several different people. I was getting pretty frustrated when one young woman acknowledged my frustration.
Normally that would be a good thing. But she did it with the same upbeat, sing-song tone she had used when she introduced herself and asked how she could help me.
That set me off even more. Without the aid of visual cues, our phone communication is heavily dependent on tone. Pitch and inflection carry a lot of meaning. But her tone lacked any empathy or caring, which made the situation many times worse.
Then after being no help to me at all, she ended the call with a dagger. In that same sing-song, Up With People voice, she returned to her script and asked, “is there anything else I can help you with today?”
I bottled my rage and hung up. I just couldn’t answer her question without being an a-hole. Because she really sucked on the phone.
Pick Up The Damn Phone
With all the technology we have at our fingertips, a lot of folks no longer use their phones to make phone calls. Despite all the ways to screw up a call, the worst way is to not make the call at all.
I was doing some networking yesterday and found a woman I wanted to connect with on LinkedIn. I sent an invite, she accepted, then I started writing an email to explain my intentions and try to engage with her.
A few minutes in I realized there was a much easier way. I found her phone number and took a chance. Sure, some people may find it intrusive, but hey, she agreed to connect, and what did I have to lose? Just in case, I started the call by apologizing for the intrusion.
Turns out she was very open to my call. We spoke for 45 minutes then scheduled another call for later. She thanked me for taking the chance, then said, ” I wish more people would just pick up the damn phone!”
It may be generational, but a lot of us have forgotten how powerful and effective a phone call can be. Far quicker than email, way more informative than texting, and it allows for the warmth and human connection that’s gone missing from our Social Media driven society.
There it is, I said it. And at the risk of sounding like an old man, I’ll say it some more. All this technology has made us unsocial. We “like” things, we “friend” people, and we send “emojis”. But we rarely send real emotion to the friends we profess to like. Because that’s not something you can do digitally.
But it is something you can do over the phone. So warm up your vocal chords, support your instrument with your diaphragm, and send some real emotion to another human. And if there’s a chicken coop in your backyard, close the damn window before you make a business call.