- Talking on the telephone may seem retro, but it is still essential in many areas of life and business
- Learn the life skills and etiqutte, and find the confidence you need to have a spoken conversation
You might think that phones are a thing of the past, but you would be surprised to know how often they are still used in everyday business. As in, actually making a phone call and speaking to another person. With your voice.
If that very thought fills you with dread, you’re not alone. Being uncomfortable with talking on a phone has become normal for teens, who far prefer texting, where complicated issues can be broken down into emoji.
There is a definite skill to making a call, other than all that dialling and waiting for at least a few seconds, if not whole minutes, before someone answers. As we know, learning a skill takes practice – so here’s how to do it.
We think this is quite an obvious piece of advice, but you would be amazed at the number of people who try to call us while they are on the MTR, or on a bus. It’s impossible to have a conversation with so much background noise. Be in a quiet place, and don’t move around.
You don’t have to start with what you know would be a long and awkward call. Just like you wouldn’t solve complicated maths problems without learning how to add first, you need a few practice runs to become comfortable. So make the effort, next time you order in a pizza, not to click a few buttons on an app, but actually call the shop and place the order.
Once you are comfortable with food orders, you might want to level up to phoning an older relative, but keep it to a special occasion such as a birthday, so that you don’t wander down the empty lane of awkward silences.
Have a script
This brings us to our second important point. You need to have a script, although you may not stick to it entirely. It will give you a lot more confidence.
Here’s how to write one:
Do you need to introduce yourself? Most often you will, and how you do it will vary according to the circumstances of the phone call.
“Hello, I’d like to place an order” ... this will get you off to a great start at the pizza shop. It would, for obvious reasons, be considered a fail if used on a call to someone else.
“Hello, this is [insert your full name here],” is a good start to a more formal convo. But don’t get caught up if the person doesn’t quite know who you are. Introduce yourself: “I’m a student at [insert name here] secondary school, or whatever context there is for the phone call.
Then move immediately on to the reason for the call: “I would like to talk to someone about adopting a dog,” for example, or “I would like to know how to enter this competition”. The words “would like” are polite and can be used in most situations.
Obviously, if you’re phoning a friend or close relative, you wouldn’t need such a formal way of addressing them. “Hi, this is Bob,” will do.
You may call a business and the person you wish to speak to might not be available. In this case, you have two choices. Either you can ask when it would be a good time to call back, or you can leave a message asking the person to call you back.
We would suggest the first option because this gives you the time to prepare before making the call. If you do choose the second option, know your own phone number, in case the person you’re talking to can’t see it, and you have to read it to them.
Before you even start to key in the phone number, smile. If you feel you absolutely can’t do that, then clench a pencil (or other suitable inanimate object) between your back teeth, so that it forces your lips and cheeks into a smile. Naturally you will have to discard any such object before speaking; otherwise, things could go seriously wrong.
Once you have said all you need to say, in formal conversations, thank the person, and then end the call by saying “goodbye”.