Last week someone complained to me about a customer service experience they had with one of the big telephone companies. The woman who served them had a very bad cold and kept coughing right in their ear. Very irritating, they said. If you have the flexibility to stay off the phone while in the depths of a bad cold, do so. When you are using the phone properly, you actually “work” your vocal chords so with a cold it is very easy to find yourself coughing and even losing your voice more than usual. Of course, many people don’t have a choice – cold or not they have to be on the phone. So, just as I’ve mentioned below, put the problem up front. “I’m sure you can tell I’ve got a bad cold. I hope it won’t interrupt our conversation too much.” Also, just as you would if you were speaking with someone in person, say “Excuse me”, move your head and cough away from the phone. Or even press the hold button. This is cetainly preferable to coughing directly in someone’s ear.