7 Ways to Get Better Results From Phone Calls

Last Updated Apr 8, 2011 11:33 AM EDT

With apologies to Alexander Graham Bell, I'm not a big fan of the telephone. In most cases, I prefer e-mail, instant messaging, or texting -- all of which tend to be faster, easier, and less likely to result in awkward pauses, interruptions, etc.

That said, there are times when only a phone call will do, and phone etiquette is a skill like any other: if you don't use it, you lose it. (Me, I've lost it.) Thankfully, it's never too late to brush up on your phone skills, to make sure you're getting the maximum return on your vocal investment.

In Mastering the Lost Art of Actually Talking on the Phone, Anna North serves up seven tips for getting better results from your calls. Actually, she serves up eight, the first being deciding whether or not a phone call is actually necessary. Assuming it is, here's one example of how to communicate more effectively:

Jeannie Davis, president of Now Hear This, Inc. and co-author of Beyond "Hello": A Practical Guide for Excellent Telephone Communication and Quality Customer Service, told me it's important for callers to remember to "moderate our rate of speech." This means not racing through things, but it also means not speaking painfully slowly either. If you're not sure what to say and you need to hesitate a ton, it might be good to plan a little more before you make calls. As Davis points out, it's not too hard to ask someone to slow down, but it is tough to comfortably get someone to talk faster. In general, remember that it's a lot harder to understand someone's voice over the phone than in person, and adjust accordingly.
North also recommends a tip I recall using back in my phone-sales days: smile while you speak. It may sound weird (and feel even weirder), but it really will make you sound more pleasant to the other party.

What's your take on phone etiquette? Is it turning into a lost art? Do you have any tips of your own to share? Let's hear from you in the comments!

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