When you speak to people on the phone, how often have you found yourself talking over them? This is often because you haven’t managed to pick up on the clues that let you know when they are about to finish speaking. It can also be the opposite, as the person on the other end of the phone may not have picked on the clues that you unknowingly give to them. This can be as subtle as a slight increase in the pitch of your or their voice at the end of a sentence.
There are many reasons why we find ourselves verbally tripping over each other during telephone conversations. The main reason is that we lose all visual indications and are relying solely on sound. For some, this can make talking on the telephone quite a nerve wracking experience.
Learning to Listen
When we pick up the phone to make a call, we often have ideas in our mind of what we need to say and find ourselves in the situation where we are too keen to deliver our message, so we forget to do the most important thing…listen. Yes, we have a reason for making the call, but to help build up the conversation it is worth beginning the conversation with a few pleasantries to lighten the pace. This is more for your benefit, because if you begin with a few questions, you can then easily adopt the habit of listening for their responses. This alone gives you an initial indication of the verbal clues the person on the other end of the phone may give to let you know when they are about to finish speaking.
Fear of Silence
Without necessarily knowing it, you will set the pace of a conversation and subconsciously you will want to maintain that pace throughout the call. You may find yourself pushing the conversation and interjecting before a silence occurs. You will be surprised about how many of us are fearful of conversations drying up and this can make many of us quite nervous, where we will find subjects to speak about – even the weather, rather than leaving silent moments These are possibly more daunting when they happen on the telephone, but don’t fear them, use the short drop in conversation to either move onto the next question or subject, but if there’s no further information to share then make the move to end the call.
Prepare for the Pause
Overcoming the fear of silence will also help you to prepare for pauses, because you won’t be so eager and ready to interject. Whilst changes in the pitch of someone’s voice give you an indication that they are coming to the end of their sentence, pauses also provide clues that will stop you tripping over each other verbally.
Overall, it’s all about repetition in the same way that if you were going to run a race you would train to do so. Making and taking telephone calls allow you to assess yourself and be conscious about how you are coming across to the person on the other end of the phone.