Teaching by Example

A recent Twitter conversation with Janet MacDonald  of @mycampusgps  has reminded me of a question I frequently get asked, and how the answer relates directly to providing teenagers with the support and confidence they need to talk on the phone.

I often get asked, “Why the phone?”

For years, I’ve attributed this to what I learned in my first business – phone skills that created steady cash flow and allowed others on my team to be successful salespeople. But then I realized the interview skills I learned as a journalist are also integral to my phone communication skills. And even before that, my life-saving job in university as a receptionist in a real estate office remains the foundation of much of my phone communication philosophy.

In fact, my “love” of the phone goes back a loooong way. In my childhood home there was a black rotary wall phone that was constantly in use. From infant to teenager I was audience to conversations that filled the house with laughter, contained empathy and information, motivated volunteers, organized community activities, and continually built relationships with friends and family.

This gift of example from my parents is definitely the foundation of both my joy and skill when it comes to talking on the phone. So … does this work with today’s teenagers?

My now 12-year-old granddaughter seems to provide proof. When she was 9, she called and left a detailed message on my voice mail … selling magazine subscriptions. While her phone pitch didn’t follow The Phone Lady preferred format, there was no denying she had excellent communication skills, tremendous comfort on the phone, and an ability to share information with great clarity.

Before you jump to the conclusion that this is about genes – it isn’t. I am blessed with a granddaughter by my oldest stepdaughter – no blood ties at all. However, what I know to be true is that since Naja was born, she has been audience to great phone communication. Since her mother was a teenager, she and I have talked on the phone almost everyday. In fact, both of Naja’s parents, who’ve had the opportunity to live in many different places around the world, are committed to staying in touch with family and friends … on the phone.

Which leads me to this thought: It’s not solely because of technology that young people are without phone communication skills. It’s also because their parents and other adult influencers have stopped talking on the phone, stopped providing the example. Think about this in your own life. What are you showing the children around you? How to text or how to talk? How to respond to email or how to have a conversation?

And setting an example doesn’t only apply to the young people in your life, it relates to your staff, as well. Are you expecting others to pick up the phone and talk while you sit and tap on a keyboard?

Anyone – and perhaps everyone – is intimidated when faced with doing something they don’t experience or observe.

If the abundance of training requests The Phone Lady receives each day is any indication, the ability to pick up the phone and communicate clearly is a skill that remains important and valuable in the business world. Will that be the case 10 years from now? I don’t know. It’s possible we’ll tap a device on our chest like in Star Trek and a hologram of the person we want to talk to will appear before us. But right now, today, and for at least the next 10 years, being able to communicate on the phone will be an admired and sought after skill.

Are you setting a good example? Do share your thoughts and experiences in our comment section below.


P.S. I’m delighted to discover – and share –  that Your Teen magazine has published several articles on phone communication for teenagers.

Move Out Skills: How to Make a Phone Call

Phone Etiquette Tips: 6 Must-Have Phone Skills for Teenagers

Friends Always On The Phone? Cell Phone Manners for Teenagers


5 thoughts on “Teaching by Example”

  1. Your Blog reminded me of a very funny story. Actually, I always thought it was funny until I read your Blog. Then it hit me that maybe this is not as funny as it seemed at the time. I thought I should share it with you. Two years ago, our granddaughter, Olivia, while eating breakfast with her “Pa”(grandfather), she pointed at a picture of herself, her sister and her Teddy bear. She said,” That’s my sister, Emma.” Pa replied,” Yes it is.”. Olivia, still pointing said,”And that is my Teddy bear.” Pa asked,”What is your teddy Bear’s name?”. “Oh he doesn’t have a name”, Olivia answered. Pa: “He doesn’t have a name? How do you call him to tell him Supper is ready?” Without looking up from her bowl, Olivia shrugged and said,”Oh, I just text him.” Olivia had just turned TWO. Cute or Sad?

    • Thank you so much Patti for sharing this story. And it is a funny, cute story. Children really do absorb what’s around them. When children are nearby perhaps we all need to pick up the phone and call a friend!

  2. You’ve got me thinking…before my children came along, I worked as an assistant for many years in many different places for many types of people and yet my phone skills remained unchanged – they were vital to the job. Being home now doesn’t give me the opportunity to make or take a lot of calls so my twins aren’t necessarily picking up any of my good phone manners. They are , however, very interested in what daddy does on his iPhone, iPad and Blackberry….hmm, time to make some changes!

    • What a delightful comment to share, Elizabeth. Thank you so very much! One of the things I still do … which points so clearly to my age … is make Sunday phone calls. My sister and I talk every Sunday morning. It is quick but so enjoyable.


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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

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