Many of us are great conversationalists. Some of us are better with face to face conversations than telephonic and some of us are happier when we don’t see the face of the person whom we talk to. Telephonic conversations become even more stressful when we are expected to speak in English – especially if you have to speak to native speakers of English.
If you work at the customer end of a corporate company that deals with global customers, the chances are you are expected to use flawless English to communicate details of the service or product you sell. The expectation can be nerve wrecking for someone who is not confident with the use of the language. You cannot expect to speak flawlessly on the phone when you do not speak in English at all other times. Add to it the different accents, unfamiliar words and phrases; telephonic conversations can become even more daunting than it otherwise is. Other than making errors in English, we also rush through what we say, don’t pause to confirm understanding, forget to actively listen and pause at the wrong places!
What is important to appreciate and understand is the fact that native speakers of English do not expect us to be perfect. They do realize that English is not our first language and they make an effort to understand us. English errors apart, there are other areas in telephonic conversations that can improve with practice. These will help you have smooth, clear conversations on telephone.
Here are a few key pointers, in the context of a non native speaker of English that will tell you how to avoid having disastrous conversations on telephone.
Think before you dial: This is the first step before you actually make that call. Write down points that you intend to convey or clarify on the telephone. Write key words or phrases that will trigger the point you want to speak about. When the telephone is answered, state the purpose of the call clearly and also indicate how long the call will take.
Use balance in conversation - Do not talk without pausing for the other to respond or interrupt. When you get involved in a monologue, you may feel happy and satisfied at the end of the conversation, but you have no way to judge if the receiver of the information understood entirely what you said.
Listen: I don’t think there is anything more to be said here. When you have initiated the call, it does not mean you have to control who speaks. You have to listen to what the person on the other end has to say. Listening, as you all know, is incomplete when you do not do it actively. What I mean by active listening is making short notes, grabbing words, phrases that he uses to tell you what he thinks or what he wants done, so that when you end the conversation, you can effectively summarize / paraphrase what you heard.
Watch that tone: Your work may demand that you speak to people from different parts of the World. What may seem as an acceptable tone to converse in with someone from your country may not sound appropriate to someone from another culture. Especially over the telephone when you have no way of communicating with body language or expressions and your message entirely depends on the tone you choose to speak.
A simple NO can sound abrupt and rude when it is not said in the right tone or is not justified with a reason. Setting the mood of the conversation using the right tone is crucial.
Avoid dead air: Often times, during telephone conversations, when we don’t have an appropriate answer or we don’t know what to say (because you need to check some detail more than being at a loss of words), we tend to go quiet. This can be very annoying to the other person who will wonder if you are still there. He will have to know that we are still an active participant in the conversation and that we need some time to respond. A good practice is to use the hold procedure and/or give him a time frame by which you will get back.
I am sure these thoughts have triggered many other points that you have noticed about telephonic conversations at work. Why don’t you share it with us?
There is always a scope to learn and improve, don’t you agree?