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MIHE Blog News, views and insights from Macmillan International Higher Education


How To Get Better At Talking On The Phone

by Emma Sue Prince 17th September 2019

Emma Sue Prince offers some helpful tips on how to beat your fear of picking up the phone and making a call

“Really?”, you ask. “We need to learn this?!” You bet we do! We use our phones for everything except for making a phone call. Yet sometimes a phone call may just be the very best thing to do. The power of the human voice is still important and perhaps more so than ever.

When was the last time you made a phone call? Chances are most of your communications are by messaging, text and email. Phone calls can feel awkward and intrusive. Whereas people once received and made calls with friends on a regular basis, we now coordinate most outings and social events via e-mail or text. It’s becoming common now in the workplace to make phone call appointments. More often than not, if you do make an unscheduled phone call you will only reach voicemail. On top of this the chances that the receiver will actually listen to your voicemail are also slim.
Sometimes a phone call may just be the very best thing to do. The power of the human voice is still important and perhaps more so than ever.
Why is this? When most people see a voicemail from someone they know, they either text the person back quickly or they’ll immediately call the person back. They still don’t listen to the message. What most people want is to feel is that they’re in control. When you take a phone call or listen to a voicemail, it can feel a little unpredictable. When someone calls you, you don’t know if it’s going to be a short confirmation, or if it’s going to be a 30-minute conversation that significantly detracts from everything else you’re working on. People want to be in control of themselves and their own schedule. We are using the phone less and less.

It has become so easy to hide behind email, text and messaging. That might be great for lots of things but no good at all for conveying the warmth which is essential for building trust. When miscommunication happens in texts and emails it’s not random. It’s usually as a result of reacting too fast. If you want to build relationships, aside from meeting face-to-face, the telephone is going to be one of the best mediums to use. Plus, responding in the moment is good as it encourages us to be more present, more real and activates the part of our brain which supports this. Use the phone more and you'll avoid misunderstandings and be more productive.

How do you get better at making that phone call?

1. Overcome your natural resistance to make that call

This is now the norm. If what you are wanting to communicate is important then ask the other person for a time slot when you can call them rather than putting everything into a message or email.

2. Know why you want to make the call

Think in advance about what you want to achieve or why you want to discuss something in more detail. Be ready to initiate those points and how you might raise them.

3. Keep you tone warm

Your voice is powerful. Remember that on the phone you still have fewer physical clues so your voice becomes even more important. Smiling while speaking really does work.

4. Listen just the same as you would do face-to-face

You may need to vocalise this more as the other person cannot see you. Use lots of affirming language and nod even if this can't be seen!

5. Be polite

Greet the other person warmly, thank them for their time, and check that it's still a good time to talk before launching in. Keep the call brief and clear. If you like, follow up with a friendly email thanking them again and summarising any points or actions agreed.

The original version of this article was posted on Emma Sue Prince's LinkedIn. An edited version has been reposted here with the author's permission.

This is the fifth of the 'Working Smarter' series by Emma Sue Prince. The rest can be found below:

  1. 3 tips for working smarter
  2. Understanding your brain will change the way you work
  3. How to stop living inside your phone and get productive, focused and happy
  4. How to get better at public speaking
  5. How to get better at talking on the phone (the one you're reading now)
  6. Coming soon!
  7. Coming soon!
  8. Coming soon!
  9. Coming soon!
Featured image credit: Photo by Taylor Grote. Available on Unsplash via the Unsplash license.