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Own Your Distractions

dog at desk

Twenty-eight years ago, on May 15, my then business partner gave birth to her first child. We were in our fourth year of growing our company and while we did manage to organize a (sort of) maternity leave for her, once that time was up, that wonderful baby came to work … everyday.

Keep in mind that it was 1992. Everyone in the company was on the phone much of the day and none of us had the ability to predict when that child would cry, laugh or scream. As we spoke with clients and prospects, we knew that these sounds were startling. People were judging us because reputable companies did not ‘work from home’. And in those days, babies in the office were completely unacceptable. It caused all of us to sound a wee bit stressed.

We have come a long way … yet a communication lesson I learned 28 years ago does apply to your home office today.

What was the lesson I learned? How does it apply to your home office?

The memory of one particular phone call remains very clear in my mind. I was having a great conversation with a potential client when a cry of hunger wailed in the background. I quickly said, “Oh, my partner has a young child that’s here at work with us.” I didn’t get to finish that sentence; the prospect had already hung up.

From then on, I would let everyone know about the potential background noise at the beginning of every call. For example, “Hi David, This is Mary Jane calling from The Phone Lady. The reason for my call is to confirm our webinars next week, and I’ll let you know that you may hear a few baby noises in the background.” 

Today this skill is more valuable than ever.

Whether you are on a phone call, teleconference, webinar or attending a video meeting, let everyone know about the potential distractions that might occur in your background. When you say it at the beginning, you will relax and you will allow everyone on the call to expect a possible “event”. Then, when your cat suddenly jumps on your desk and stares into the camera, it will cause a laugh, but it won’t startle anyone, it won’t completely derail the current discussion.

Here are some popular phrases I’ve worked on with clients over the past eight weeks:

  • “Both my partner and I are on video calls at the same time today. You may hear them talking in the background.”
  • “My three-year-old loves the camera. She’s sleeping right now but if she wakes up, she could make an appearance.”
  • “My dog is usually quiet but often when he hears voices on a video call, he’ll start to bark.”
  • “You may hear a bit of Sesame Street during this call.”
  • “My husband is making lunch for the children right now so you may hear some noises from the kitchen.”

Whatever your potential distraction, own it at the beginning of the call. This not only creates less of a disruption during the conversation but also allows you to relax, listen and participate.

What background distractions are you dealing with these days? Share your experiences in the comment section below.

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Where’s The Phone Lady?

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