All my life, I have always tried to pick conversations over email or text where possible, as compared to phone calls, especially at work. I feel fairly comfortable in face-to-face conversations, but other than that, phone calls worry me to no end. The idea of having to know exactly what to say, without being able to see how the other person reacts terrifies me. This meant that I was usually scared whenever my phone rang at work. Is this a problem for you too? Does the prospect of phone calls, that too in English, petrify you? If it does, here are the ways that I figured out how to deal with the fears better:
It always helps me to figure out what it is that I need to say before I make a call. You can either do this on a piece of paper, or mentally, if you’re confident about it. As with any formal conversation, a clear agenda will keep your conversation precise and easy to navigate. It will also give you a road-map in case any tangents come up.
2. Remember your manners:
One of the big drawbacks of a phone conversation is that you can’t see the other person. So when you are speaking with someone you don’t know well, it may make it a bit difficult to understand whether they are being curt, impolite or just to the point. Facial expressions usually cue us into that. On call, listen properly, and when speaking, be as polite as you can. A please here and a thank you there will go a long way in getting a successful conversation outcome for you.
3. Questions are good:
There is no shame in asking the other person to repeat what they said if you couldn’t hear or understand it clearly. A lot of us just nod or hope to figure out what was said by the context of the rest of the conversation, and feel scared in asking the other person to repeat what they said. Even if you are used to listening to English, phone lines can be tricky, so do not worry about asking the other person to repeat or go slow. Use phrases such as “I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that- would you please repeat it for me? Thanks!”. Similarly, speak slowly, spell out important details where you need to, to ensure that there is no miscommunication.
4. Salutations and Regulations:
If you know whether your phone call is formal or informal, use language accordingly. When you take a formal call, use a full introduction, such as “Hi, my name is ….” instead of saying “Hi this is …” or “… here”. If you’re calling someone whose schedule you don’t know, ask if this is a good time to speak. A small detail like that will immediately make the other person more receptive. When you end the call, always wish them a good day- no matter if they’re your senior, a junior or just an associate.
After a lot of practice, I realised that phone calls are not as tricky as I initially felt they are, but I hope these little ideas can help you as well, along with the practice. Are there any other problems you face, when communicating in English at work? Write to team LearnEd in the comments section and we will help you out!