“To be outstanding, get comfortable with being uncomfortable.”
I’m reminded of these wise words every time I face a room of young students, some of them with pens poised, others with fingers hovering over keyboards. They are hoping I will say the one thing that will suddenly unlock for them the mystery of “talking” on the telephone.
They need to understand it. With upwards of 85% of the job market unadvertised it’s vital they develop enough confidence to phone potential employers – and to present themselves with confidence in phone interviews.
Of course, I’m unable to deliver easy answers or solutions. And it doesn’t matter if my audience is students, entrepreneurs or experienced professionals. Communicating effectively on the telephone is a skill and learning a new skill is … uncomfortable.
Part of it is our impatience. Once we decide we want to learn something, we visualize the end result. It could be having a conversation in a new language, or capturing music on a new instrument, or even running our first marathon. We are motivated and exhilarated by the end result – and quickly realize there’s a great distance between what we see in our mind’s eye and actually living that vision.
And this is uncomfortable.
We might look at the time and discipline involved in learning that new skill and tell ourselves we can’t do it. We might convince ourselves that it requires an innate ability we don’t possess, leading us to give up in that first moment of being uncomfortable.
I see this happen a lot. I watch as the students and entrepreneurs and professionals take notes furiously. I spend time with them during coffee breaks and even organize one-on-one coaching sessions. Everyone wants to capture the skill and use it perfectly the next day. And part of me regrets that I can’t make this happen. The only thing I can say that I hope they hear is … practice.
The word practice comes to us from the early 15th century, from the Late Latin and Greek, and means “to perform repeatedly to acquire skill, to learn by repeated performance”. In order to be good at something, confident in our ability to do it well, we need to practice.
And practicing is uncomfortalbe. Making mistakes is uncomfortable. Being nervous is uncomfortable.
But being uncomfortable means something is happening, that we are making progress, that we are getting closer to our original vision.
When it comes to phone communication, here are the top three uncomfortable things you can do to acquire the necessary skill:
1. Start by calling a family member or a friend once a day. Make sure you don’t do all the talking. Ask them open-ended questions. Listen closely to their answers and formulate your next question based on those answers. Do this for at least a week, and you’ll discover that you’ve achieved a level of comfort on the phone. Continue to make these calls.
2. Now also choose seven strangers to call – potential new clients or employers. Use the tools you have available to learn more about them, i.e. LinkedIn. Be 100% clear about why you are choosing to call them and what you want to acheive. Craft and write out your introduction and some of the open-ended questions you wish to ask. Also write out what you will say when you reach their voicemail.
3. Call one of these strangers each day for a week. Know that you are going to be uncomfortable. You are going to think of at least 50 reasons to procrastinate and not make these phone calls. But remember your first phone calls to family and friends? You were uncomfortable then too. But after several days, you were enjoying the conversations you created.
Being uncomfortable is not a sign of failure or inability. Instead, it heralds your success. It’s time we all got comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Enjoy your phone work everyone!