Not Only Words, But Nuance

November 3, 2013
Mary Jane Copps


The most powerful gift of phone communication is – nuance. Coming from the French “nuer”, meaning to shade, nuance is about subtle differences in tone, in colour, in meaning – the differences that, when we hear them, allow us to truly serve our customers and potential customers.

While nuance is always available to us, it is often difficult to capture amidst the distractions in boardroom meetings, at busy network events, etc. And in email – well, I think it’s fair to say that nuance isn’t a strength of email or texting!

But the phone delivers all the shades and colours and meanings of language without any distraction. The only thing we need to bring to the task is our ability to listen and to trust what we are hearing.

For example:

Late last week a new client and I were reviewing the content of a workshop I will be doing for his team later this month. It was our first phone conversation and we had lots of information we wanted to share with each other.

Halfway through our discussion he mentioned that he was uncomfortable on the phone because of his stutter. I hadn’t even noticed!

What I “heard” when he spoke was someone who’s head was full of ideas and who’s brain worked five or six times faster than could be translated into words – or as I said to him “your brain works a lot faster than your mouth”.

There was a split-second pause, like an intake of breath, where he acknowledged the truth of what I’d said and then … our relationship began to blossom because … we heard each other.

So I encourage you to employ “nuance” this month – listen for it and trust it in every conversation. You’ll find yourself learning more about your customers than you ever thought possible which will allow you to truly serve their needs.

What role does nuance currently play in your life? How has it helped you communicate with others?

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The Phone Lady On the Road


5 – Phone Etiquette for Your Job Search with VANSDA in Guysborough

7 – Phone Etiquette for Your Job Search with VANSDA in Dartmouth

8 –  Phone Etiquette for Your Job Search with VANSDA in Windsor

15 – Phone Etiquette for Your Job Search with VANSDA in Yarmouth

20 – Phone Fear to Phone Fabulous in Halifax – CEED SEB (open to the public)

21 – Greater Burnside Business Association Luncheon – A Burst of Learning with The Lunch Pack (open to the public with registration)

25 – Rockstar Social Media for Small Businesses – Free Lunch and Learn in Halifax through Twirp Communications (open to the public but limited space)

26 – Grow Your Business at The Hub Halifax – Open to Entrepreneurs/Small Business Owners with Registration


12 – Phone Etiquette for Your Job Search in Halifax with Phoenix Learning and Employment Centre

19 – Telephone Skills for Excellent Customer Service in Dartmouth with St. John Ambulance NS/PEI Council





  1. Linda Daley says:

    I like that word ‘nuance’. It makes me think of deeper meaning. I agree that email and texting don’t allow for much nuance – even establishing context can take skill. It’s funny that I think I’m pretty good with nuance in person but on the phone… well, maybe I don’t trust my own ears. I’m going to practice more.

    • The Phone Lady says:

      Linda, I’ve come to believe that it is about trusting our intuition on the phone. You likely rely a lot on body language and that it is still there on the phone. Act on your intuition in a phone conversation and see what happens!

  2. Peter Skakum says:

    Here is what I learned.
    Making telephone calls to prospective clients with the intention of listening for nuance is ‘calming’ and allows ‘listening in slow motion’ … each word said and how it is said … allowing us to hear the subtle imbedded information we might otherwise miss.

    My sense is that if we call with the calm intention to truly listen to our prospects they’ll feel and react to the calming effects, too.

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