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Communication in the workplace can take many forms. Sometimes sending a concise email will suffice, while other times talking to the person face-to-face or making a phone call is necessary. When on the phone, how you convey your message is very important. The listener cannot see the expression on your face, so they rely on your tone, volume, and choice of words to gather context and purpose. Periodically reviewing your phone etiquette can help you to better ensure that the message you want to send is being received as you intended.

There are several key factors to be aware of when talking on the phone:

1. Tone. Whether you are having a great day or a horrible day, it can reflect in your voice. Before making or answering a call, take a moment to check yourself. Focus on trying to have a pleasant tone that lets the person on the other end of the line know that you are prepared for a discussion and in the moment, not distracted by other things.

Pay attention to how you sound on the call. Does your tone express boredom? Aggression? Too much enthusiasm? These can all alter the way your message comes across. In general you want to sound confident, friendly, and in control. Adjust your expression based on the nature of the call to better express yourself and connect with the listener.

When you have to deliver difficult messages, you need to be extra concerned with modulating your tone. Messages with challenging content will not be heard when spoken with a hostile tone. Hostile tones override any words that are spoken. Hence, be extra focused on speaking in a controlled, calm and regular volume when having conversations that are at all contentious.

2. Pitch. When speaking on the phone, does your voice sound too high or too low? This can make you inadvertently sound whiny or give your voice a gravely tone. Try to moderate your pitch to sound natural with varied highs and lows. This can help you to avoid sounding monotonous or robotic which can turn listeners off.

3. Rate. Talking too quickly can make it hard for the listener to follow along and they may miss important details. At the same time, speaking too slowly can cause them to lose interest. Speak a little more slowly than you think you should and this will probably be an acceptable rate.

4. Clarity. Make sure to clearly enunciate your words to avoid slurring or mumbling. This can help to reduce confusion and ensure that the listener is getting the correct information. Speaking clearly also conveys a more professional presence. Be careful not to over enunciate and risk sounding robotic, however.

5. Volume. Also pay attention to your volume, or how loudly or softly you are speaking. If you find yourself having to raise your voice to be heard, choose a quieter location to hold the call. Likewise, if you are whispering so as not to disturb others, find a more private space where you can speak at a normal level. Speaking loudly can also convey anger or aggression, while a soft tone can make you sound nimble and unsure of yourself. Find a proper balance that exudes confidence.

6. Pause. If you are initiating the call, know what you want to say ahead of time. Planning ahead can help to reduce stumbling over your words or having excessive amounts of pausing or “um” and “uh” moments. You want the conversation to flow naturally and be as short and simple as possible while still covering the essentials.

If you are on the receiving end of the call and do not know an answer offhand, simply state that you will find out and get back to the person. Make a note to yourself of the information you need and respond in a timely manner. This reduces wait time for the caller as you search for what you need.

Evaluate Your Performance

You can evaluate your own phone etiquette by recording yourself on a call or having a co-worker listen in. By doing this, you get a better impression of what the listener is hearing and how you present yourself. Pay attention to tone, pitch, rate, clarity, volume, and pauses. Make a conscious effort to change old habits so that you come across more professionally. Every time you pick up the phone, mentally prepare yourself and go through a mini checklist to ensure you are giving off the right impression.

Proper phone skills are essential for every professional, regardless of their level within an organization. Leaders in particular want to position themselves as respectable, confident, knowledgeable individuals. If you need help evaluating and refining your communication skills so that you are presenting your messages most effectively, contact the professionals at JP Kantor Consulting. We can provide you with the coaching and training necessary to elevate your presence and abilities.