To Listen and Learn … Press Mute

phone conversation in office

It doesn’t seem to matter how many projects I do as The Phone Lady, I still get incredibly excited when I’m on a discovery call with a new client. As they start sharing their challenges with me, my brain shifts into high gear and I’m quickly bursting with ideas I want to share.

While this ability to easily tap into energy and creativity comes with many advantages, it does propel me to talk more … and listen less. If I’m not careful, it results in my sharing lots of interesting thoughts and ideas but not asking enough questions and, even worse, making inaccurate assumptions.

What tool do I use to prevent this from happening? Is it something you should use too?

When I find myself in energetic, detailed conversations, I now practice using my personal, internal mute button. I first uncovered this fabulous solution while listening to Work It: Success Secrets from the Boldest Women in Business by Carrie Kerpen – and it has been a game-changer.

We’ve all used a physical button on our phones or screens to put ourselves on mute during a teleconference or video call. We do this so the noise around us won’t impact the discussion or presentation. When we choose to unmute, we have to take a few seconds to push a button or click a screen icon. In other words, there’s a slight pause as we make the decision that, yes, we are going to speak, and then another few seconds to complete the corresponding action.

When I find myself in a detailed conversation, I immediately push my internal mute button and settle into listening. The excitement and ideas still surface but, in order to share them, I have to unmute myself. The space this creates, the one between making the decision to speak and actually speaking, allows me to make different choices. Here are three examples:

  1. In discovery calls with prospects, once I ask an open-ended question, I push mute. Clients fill the space. They not only answer my question but, when I don’t rush in to keep the conversation going and share my thoughts, they fill the space … with more stories, information and requests.
  2.  When it is my turn to speak, the moments it takes unmute (and I literally push a pretend button on a nearby surface) helps me avoid assumptions. In the past where I might have skipped over a valuable detail, I now have time to recognize my knowledge gaps and to create better follow-up questions.
  3. And when it’s time for the other person to make a decision, instead of rushing in with words of encouragement or a list of possible options, I keep myself on mute. I give the prospect or client the quiet time they need to compose their thoughts and share them with me.

There’s a quote that’s attributed to both Claude Debussy and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: “Music is the silence between the notes.” For me, the relationship resides in the silence I allow within my conversations. It’s not only important but extremely valuable for us to embrace the role of silence in our phone calls.

What about you? What are you doing to strengthen your listening skills?


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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.