It happened to me this week at about 9:30 am. I was sitting at my desk finishing a proposal I wanted to deliver before I had to leave at 11 am for a presentation. I was focused, searching my brain for some perfect language, muttering to myself to ensure flow and then … the phone rang.
Now, being The Phone Lady I do pride myself on answering my phone as often as possible, most especially when I’m right beside it! This call was from someone I had called, someone I know and wanted to speak with …
But I was focused. I had a deadline. And I had to leave soon for my presentation.
I knew it wasn’t possible for me to have the conversation – to listen, answer questions, engage. And I knew my focus on the proposal would be shattered, that I’d need more time to get back “in” the writing.
I chose not to answer. That caller and I are still playing phone tag. Not because I don’t want to talk to them … but because I do!
I really wanted to talk to them and their call came at exactly the wrong moment.
I’m sharing this with you because I get asked most often, even at social events: Why don’t people answer their phone? Why don’t they return calls?
And the answer, a lot of the time, is not that they don’t want to talk to you, but that they do.
How does this apply to returning messages? Simple. Returning a call also requires the time to speak, have the conversation. Someone who’s professional life is back-to-back meetings, or constant traveling, or frontline work with customers is not returning your call because they haven’t found the time to speak with you.
I was reminded of this during the past week when one of my calls to someone I don’t know was returned. He apologized for taking a week to call me back (I smiled and told him that no apology was necessary – people can take months) but this was the first opportunity he had to have a conversation. And we did have a conversation – over 13 minutes worth. It was enjoyable and productive.
But 13 minutes …that’s a lot of time in the business day of many, many people. And this is why they are not calling you back promptly.
I know, I know, this is sounding a bit grim isn’t it. Like, what’s the point then? Why pick up the phone at all?
Well, here’s the silver lining …
Because today, more than any other time in the 25 years I’ve steadily been talking on the phone, when someone answers their phone they want to talk to you. They’ve made the decision to take time for the conversation.
And when they do return your call, well, that’s when they’ve set aside time for you. They’ve called you ready to listen, ask questions and engage. (Of course, you need to be ready. If you’re prospecting, this is where “perfect pitch” applies.)
Now, I realize that this “silver lining” isn’t foolproof – it doesn’t apply 100% of the time. But my world is filled to brimming with phone calls and I believe this now applies 75% of the time. So, a reminder of something I’ve said before – when they don’t answer or they don’t return your call promptly, please remember …
It’s not about you!
One Last Thought
How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life you will have been all of these. George Washington Carver