Let’s Get Comfortable with Phone Conversations

man talking on the phone

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been thinking about the word ‘comfortable’. Over 10% of the CEOs and senior executives who responded to the 2024 Report of Phone Communication Trends included this word in their comments.

Here are a few examples of how the word was used:

  • “Employees are often uncomfortable (using the phone).”
  • “As we hire younger generations for our work, their comfort level and effectiveness on the phone become less.”
  • “Younger generations are not as comfortable with (the) phone…”
  • “People feel uncomfortable using the phone to have the conversation.”

Yet the report strongly indicates that phone conversations are invaluable for sales, customer service and accounts receivable. It also suggests that several factors, such as AI and digital scams, are pointing to a future where the need and value of phone conversations will increase.

How can we make phone conversations comfortable? Why are they uncomfortable? Can anyone be comfortable using the phone?

The word ‘comfortable’ comes to us from the 1200s and originally meant relief from an affliction or sorrow. In the mid-1300s it also came to mean “state of enjoyment resulting from satisfaction … and freedom from anxiety”.

From my experiences as The Phone Lady these past 18 years, I know that many individuals, from all generations, experience anxiety around phone calls.

For younger generations, we don’t have to do much research to understand this fear and lack of comfort. They have not grown up with a ‘home phone’. They have always had the option to communicate with words on a screen.

This is vastly different from my relationship with the phone. I was taught how to politely answer the home phone, and even take a message, before I started school. Once I arrived at kindergarten, the first “test” was … recite your home phone number. In high school I had two receptionist jobs – one at a women’s health centre and the other at an iron ore mine. My university education was financed at a real estate office … answering the phone. And my journalism career was all about making phone calls.

So discomfort on the phone is not something I can remember. However, there are lots (and lots) of things I’ve found very uncomfortable. In fact, they made me anxious. These include: riding a bike, driving a car, playing squash, renovating a house, baking, using a new recipe, using a new technology … the list is very, very long.

How did I move past my discomfort and anxiety?

I practiced. I did the thing – over and over and over again. When I was learning how to play squash, I could not serve at all. It was so embarrassing. Thank heavens for good and patient friends.  I’d actually book the court for myself just before a scheduled game. I’d practice my serve for 45 minutes. And yes, I did learn how to serve.

To eliminate phone discomfort and anxiety, you have to do the thing. You have to practice. Whether phone conversations are a “new to you” technology, or you have spent years tapping on keys and your phone skills are rusty, making and receiving calls are how you get comfortable.

Here are some suggestions to increase your comfort with phone calls.

  1. Start with family and friends; schedule a time with them when you’ll be calling to have a short conversation.
  2. Form a partnership at work, or even create a group, with colleagues who also want to practice their phone skills. Call each other. Practice.
  3. Phone a store or restaurant and ask a simple question such as, “What time do you open on Sunday?”
  4. If you are in management, create ways to help your team practice their phone skills: set an example, become a coach/mentor, set aside time for role play and training.
  5. Book a short conversation with The Phone Lady. I’ve worked with hundreds of individuals who’ve wanted to overcome their discomfort and anxiety with phone conversations. And I’m here to help you. Use this link to book a 15-minute call: calendly.com/thephonelady/a-short-conversation-with-the-phone-lady.

In 2024 reports on the most desired job skills, both Forbes and LinkedIn have put communication skills at the top of the list. Developing the skills to talk on the phone enhances all of your communication skills, from video calls to presentations, from job interviews to attending social events and trade shows.

Over the past decade or so, using the phone for conversations has become tremendously undervalued. There are strong indications that this is going to change. Developing new skills takes time so … let’s get started.

#InspireConversation

Closing a sale is the natural outcome of inspiring great conversations and listening intently to our potential customers.

This natural approach still involves a process – a plan that moves potential customers through a journey of discovery with you. So ... what's your process? And am I the right sales coach for you? Let's find out.

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What's The Phone Lady doing?

 

  • Remote learning experiences + one-on-one coaching for women entrepreneurs (More info about this three-year program here.)
  • Team and individual coaching with a national moving company to refine their sales process
  • Remote half-day training for provincial tourism representatives
  • Remote seven-part sales training program for US-based SaaS
  • Remote webinar on accounts receivable communication for industrial-services company
  • Remote webinar on validation to college students in entrepreneur program
  • In-person workshop on job search skills for women in the trades
  • Remote half-day webinar on written correspondence to customers

Do you or your team want to improve your communication skills? Do you have a communication question or challenge you'd like to discuss? This quick-to-fill-out form is easy to use and you'll hear from Mary Jane very soon.