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Posts Tagged ‘call etiquette’

The “Today Show” had a segment this morning on the captioned which resonates with many people, I’m sure.  It seems that we are doing almost everything on our phones now but calls.  Aside from making the occasional calls for hotlines, reservations or for work, I don’t think I am really using my phone to talk to any of my friends now.  Instead, I test, I e-mail, I surf Facebook and I share news all on one simple handy device ironically named a mobile phone.

The segment profiles college students claiming that they are texting some 20,000 messages on a monthly basis, and some of them believe that they can express themselves better through texts than by speaking with their friends in person.  I don’t.  Though I find it extremely convenient to communicate via texts, it’s not really the reason why I seldom make calls.  I guess I just don’t enjoy chatting on the phone endlessly.  My phone conversations are always to the point and mission specific.  If I really want to catch the latest of a friend, I always prefer asking them out for a face to face chat rather than doing it on the phone. 

No doubt texts can never take the place of a live conversation.  There is a limit to how much you can convey through the 26 alphabets and emoticons available on the phone.   However, the slight delay in response time allows us to think for a bit before we reply, which is always nice.  It also gives me back my much-needed sanity from hearing people screaming and babbling on their phones in noisy subways and buses.  If you work in an office, you will definitely agree with me that texting is a lot more discreet for those small talks with your boyfriends or girlfriends than using the phones during office hours.  For the latter, half of the office would already have their ears pressed toward your cubicle the whole time.

Texting is also great to catch up with someone without overly disturbing them, especially for the people who you are not that close to, yet.  It helps to minimize awkwardness, rejection and anxiety.  The flip side of the coin of course is that you can be zapping 3,000 texts with someone and still haven’t had a good idea of who they are, or what you think of them.  Is it  time-saving or is it indeed a waste of time?  You be the judge.

Experts believe that phone calls will soon head toward extinction.  With so little practice in their personal lives, now I understand why so many people are horrible in phone etiquette at work.  I wrote about this in an earlier post, and would like to take this opportunity to also include some etiquette tips provided by the Today Show.

  • Speak in an “even” tone, and clearly: As speakers, we often “mumble, shout, whisper, or speak with food in our mouths,” Sue Fox, author of “Etiquette For Dummies” and “Business Etiquette For Dummies.” says.
  • Don’t talk while being distracted by all the technology around you. Go to a room or area where there is no other technology that can tempt you with interruptions. Find a comfortable chair (or area to stand), where you can just focus on the phone call, and not be lured by beeps, message flashes, screens and other white-noise interruptions of technology.
  • As a listener, your job is to “really listen,” says Fox. Sounds simple, but, she says, “as listeners, we do other things when we’re supposed to be listening, listen without hearing anything the other person says, or respond to another person’s question from left field — with an entirely different topic.”
  • “Find the correct distance from your mouth to hold the receiver so that your voice doesn’t sound like part of the ambient background, or like a hectoring protester speaking into a bullhorn,” she says.
  • “Exercise patience on the phone, and let other people finish their sentences.”
  • “Confirm you’re listening with periodic (verbal) sounds, such as ‘ah-hah’ ‘yes’ and the like.”
  • Believe it or not, your “posture when you speak on the phone strongly affects how you sound to the person on the other end” as well as “the energy that comes across on the telephone,” Fox says. “Don’t slump in your chair; sit up straight. Also, smiling while you speak can actually make the tone of your voice more pleasant.”
  • “Never use phone calls as an opportunity to get caught up with paper-shuffling,” she says.
  • “Remind yourself that feeling ‘out of control’ in a phone call is just a state of mind,” says Sherry Turkle, MIT professor. “You can warmly and firmly set boundaries in a phone call. Say: ‘I wanted so much to hear your voice … It always lifts me up. But I only had five minutes. So, if it’s okay with you, let’s chat for those five minutes. It would be precious to me.’ ”  Meaning, says Turkle: “Reaffirm what is precious about the phone call, that you will hear the voice — and take out of the phone call the thing that may mar it for you — the tension that it might interfere with other responsibilities, other pressing matters.”
  • You may not like to talk on the phone, but “keep up telephone contact with close friends,” Turkle says. “They have things to say that they don’t want to say in e-mail or text. Count on it. You will hear things in the cadence of their voice, their inflection. Learn to limit these conversations; it is a crucial life skill. Learning it with friends who care about you will put you in good stead for the rest of your life.”
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If you have been following my earlier blog entries, you will know why my job covers at least regional if not global markets.  It makes both strategic and financial sense in order to fulfill my promised ROI for the company.  Taking any regional roles means that we have to manage teams virtually, and by teams it can be my colleagues in procurement, or my internal and external clients across various countries and time zones.

Handling all these conference calls is exhausting.  First there are bi-weekly calls with my boss, and then there are monthly regional calls where they have to happen during our lunch hour because it is the only time that fits everyone’s time zones from Australia to India.  The global calls happen either in our early mornings or late evenings when my European and American colleagues attend.   It seems that all I do at work is babbling on the telephone all day, and not til 5 or 6pm can I return to my quieter time at work. 

This is all a fact of life, but I still have to rant about a few of my frustrations on this topic.

1. Physical endangerment

No time for proper meals.  One could really develop a bad case of stomach ulcer from irregular eating times.  Sometimes I won’t have time for lunch until 4pm.  Plus, whenever people on my floor see me running (apologetically) across, it’s for the restroom.  Speaking on the phone all day requires the intake of plenty of water, and naturally all that intake needs an outlet.  While my rich neighboring department staff can afford those fancy wireless headsets that they can carry around everywhere (including restroom, which I surely won’t recommend), I have to leave my clumsily-wired headset and run to the restroom, hopefully all within a minute and a half.  “Yes…..exactly and I agree….,” I continued babbling as if I have never left.

2. Idiots on the phone

You would think that in the year 2010, people would have developed a proper sense of phone etiquette.   Oh no.  There are people who put everyone on hold forcing all of us to listen to blaring elevator music.  There are dogs barking and TV noises in the background.  There are people seemingly eating potato chips while talking.  Alright, I know everyone is multi-tasking, but please don’t insult us by yapping on your cell phone while everyone can hear.  Your signals provide much hated interference to line quality.  I cannot believe we still need to repeat call etiquette guidelines every time when we start a call, and every time there will be idiots repeating the same mistakes.

3. Lazy folks

Well, to be fair, they are perhaps not lazy.  Their bosses may not have given them the budget to buy head sets.  If this is the case, I won’t complain too much about them abusing the hands-free button on their desktop phones.  All we hear are people mumbling.  The hands-free function only works in quiet environment and not in open offices.  I am hearing everyone else’s conversation instead of this poor soul.  There is also nothing more insulting when I keep hearing a few conference attendees apparently sharing inside jokes while yapping away from the same hands-free desktop phone.  I feel like a clown performing for their amusement.  Not cool, guys.

Sometimes when things really get out of hand, I will simply suggest to reschedule the call altogether.  I don’t have time to waste on unproductive calls where people don’t even respect others.   Grow up.

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