Most people are a little uncomfortable speaking on the phone. It can be difficult and awkward, and sometimes you aren’t sure if your message is coming across. Since most selection processes include a telephone interview, and many positions demand effective telephone communication, it is worth taking the time to improve your telephone skills. Here are some steps that you can take to try to get more comfortable speaking on the phone:
1) Break it down. Why is speaking on the phone difficult for you? Is it more difficult to listen without seeing the speaker’s facial expressions and body language, or to speak without using nonverbal communication? Once you identify which part of telephone communication is challenging for you, you can strategically focus your efforts on improving it.
2) Practice on the phone. Many people are uncomfortable with speaking on the phone because they rarely do it. The more you speak on the phone (even to friends and family), the more comfortable you will be. In addition, you can practice your listening skills by actively listening to podcasts or books on tape. You can practice speaking by recording yourself answering questions and playing it back to see how you sound.
3) Focus on the conversation. If you are distracted, telephone communication is extremely difficult. It is best to find a quiet and comfortable place to speak on the phone. Listen carefully and don’t multitask. Have a paper and pen handy to make notes. If you don’t understand what the other person is saying, ask them to repeat it. If you let them continue when you don’t understand, you will likely get more and more lost and may completely misunderstand what they are trying to say.
4) Take your time. Be sure to organize your thoughts and write down your objectives for the conversation. When speaking, be direct and to the point. Don’t talk on and on. Also remember to speak clearly and slowly.
5) Add enthusiasm to your voice. Don’t be monotone. Many people keep their voices very flat. Expression in your voice is particularly important when you are speaking on the phone because your listener cannot see you. Your intonation is the only way that they can detect your enthusiasm.
Since most of our communication is nonverbal, telephone communication is inherently difficult for us. However, since many of our important conversations will take place over the telephone, we need to become comfortable with it. If you take the time to practice, and remember to focus, it will get better. Try to enjoy talking on the phone and smile. This will immediately make you sound warm and friendly.
(Written by: Karen Bivand)