Silence on the Phone Doesn’t Have To Be Awkward

October 14, 2017
Mary Jane Copps

“The music is not in the notes, but in the silence between them.”  Debussy

In a workshop this past week Melissa of House of Auto Details wanted to know more about dealing with silence on the phone. It can be a challenge for many of us, yet it is an essential part of many conversations.

Here are four reasons for silence during a phone conversation and how you can handle each one:

The Silence of Service

Silence often occurs on the phone during customer service calls. Our focus becomes divided between conversation and recording information. We can start to feel awkward, as if we are ignoring the customer. The best way to handle this is to share with the customer what we are doing; create a picture in their mind’s eye that explains the silence. For example: “I’m looking for your information on my computer right now. This will only take a minute.” Or “I’m entering this information into your file so we have it for future reference.” When a customer understands the silence,  the expectation of continual conversation will disappear.

The Silence of Thought

When we are involved in sales calls or longer conversations on the phone, silence can occur because the other person is thinking. We want to respect this and allow them the time they need. While we can’t see that they are thinking, when we are fully engaged in the phone call, we can rely on our instinct. This type of silence usually occurs after we’ve asked a question, or as part of a discussion involving multiple opinions or options. Simply relax into the moments of quiet … and perhaps do a bit of thinking yourself!

The Silence of Attention and Learning

For many of us, taking notes during a phone call is essential. For me this occurs when I’m speaking with clients about possible projects. I’ll write down key points as reference to help me create a proposal or perhaps an email summary. It also happens on calls with individuals I’m coaching; they are taking notes as I speak.  We can rely on our instinct to alert us of this note-taking silence, but speaking about it is also valid. A simple “I’m taking notes while we’re talking” is all that’s needed.

The Silence of  Distraction

This is quite common … and rude. I hate to admit it but I’ve done it myself. The phone rings. I answer it. I begin a conversation with someone … and continue reading or answering email. Shame on me! Again, instinct is powerful and it will always inform the other person that we are distracted. When this happens, we need to find a gentle way to regain the other person’s attention, such as “Sounds like I’ve caught you at a busy time” or “Do you want to call me back at a better time?” I believe it is important not to take the other person’s distraction personally. After all, we’re all guilty of this occasionally.

Enjoy your week and #InspireConversation


Where’s The Phone Lady? 

Tuesday Oct 17 – Telephone Excellence, Canadian Credit Union Association, National Virtual Conference

Wednesday Oct 18  – Telephone Excellence, Knowledge First Financial, Tele-training

Friday Oct 20 – Building the Future: How Mentorship Supports Prosperity in Atlantic Canada, with Futurpreneur Atlantic and TD Canada Trust, Charlottetown

Tuesday Oct 24 – Celebrating Small Business with Halifax Public Libraries at the Central Library: Top 10 Ways to Use Conversation to Build Trust, 6 to 8 pm, Halifax

Thursday Oct 26 – Phone Fear to Phone Fabulous, CBDC Bluewater, Porters Lake

Thursday Oct 26 – Telephone Excellence, CIBC, Tele-training

Monday Oct 30 – Phone Skills for the 21st Century, Canadian Mortgage Brokers Association, Atlantic Chapter, Halifax

Tuesday Nov 7 – Telephone Excellence, Canadian Credit Union Association, National Virtual Conference

Thursday Nov 9 – Job Search Phone Skills, Older Wiser Labourforce (OWL), Halifax

Monday Nov 13 – Phone Skills to Reach & Meet More Clients, TD Wealth, Toronto

Tuesday Nov 14 – Create Consistent Revenue, CEED, Halifax

Wednesday Nov 18 – Telephone Excellence, Killam Properties Inc, Halifax

Tuesday Nov 21 – Telephone Excellence, RBC, Tele-training



  1. Natasha Marchewka says:

    So insightful, Mary Jane!

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