Phone and Conference Call Etiquette

April 28th, 2020
Phone and Conference Call Etiquette

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Now that we are all working remotely

Over the last few weeks, something I have known for years has really jumped to the forefront during calls, conference calls and WebEx, Zoom and Teams conferences. Our minds and our mouths work far faster than the technology we are using to communicate.

I have known since the first time that I used a cell phone that there was generally a slight delay between the time I stopped speaking and the time that the person I was talking to heard what I said. Not that long ago, all our voice communications were being handled by analog and digital networks that had our conversations traversing the country at the speed of light. In fact, about the only time we had a delay between conversing parties was when the call was being carried by a satellite uplink or a trans-oceanic conversation. Today, virtually all our communications traverse an IP network in some form at some point. Our current IP communication devices (IP Phones, Soft phones on our computers, Conference bridges, and Cell Phones) use Voice over IP (VoIP) in some form whether at your business or when working remotely.

I know you're scratching your head saying, “what the heck is this guy talking about”. The technology that allows us to have these calls pretty much anywhere we have cell or internet service injects some inherent delay in the conversation. That delay can cause us to inadvertently talk over the other participant in the conversation. That in turn creates frustration and can actually damage an otherwise productive conversation.

We all have been conditioned to have “rapid fire” conversations. We text with our peers and family because it is more convenient than having a call, sending an email or writing a letter (remember those?). That “rapid fire” habit is causing many of us (insert mea culpa here) to step on the conversation of others. When this happens participants can become frustrated, feel as though they are not being heard, or more importantly that their conversation with you is not being taken seriously.

I know how I feel when this happens to me. I also know how I feel when I realize that I am doing this in a conversation. In both cases, I feel as though I have failed to set the tone of respect and active listening in the conversation. There is a very simple solution to this situation. When someone else is speaking listen with intent and make sure the party who is speaking has finished their thought by pausing your response or contribution to them. The pause does not have to be long; a couple of seconds is normally enough to make sure the person you are talking to didn’t just pause to take a breath. While this takes practice, we’ll all be better communicators if we do it.

All it takes is a short pause, take a breath, do what works for you to and I promise your calls will go smoother and you’ll become a more effective communicator.


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