Do you remember the Swiss trucks driving around that say “You can’t say ‘Swiss’ without a smile?” This is because of the way our facial muscles move to form the “s” sibilance.
In an effort to cope with phone calls, a weakness of mine, I have developed a bit of a strategy based upon my (unscientific) testing and trial. Not only do I have a mental script that I adhere to, but I have found that I always get a varied, yet great, reaction out of folks when my answer to “How are you?” is “Fabulous!“
The answer is unexpected; therefore, it is disarming. This causes the other party to relax a bit (it breaks the ice), state how they are doing, and ask if I really am really fabulous. I am then able to proceed with the call in friendly manner, having already established a rapport.
Office Manager Tip: When answering "How are you?" say "Fabulous!" You can't say it without smiling, thus raising the pitch of your voice.
— Riggins Construction (@RigginsConst) August 30, 2010
You may wonder why this tip is even remotely relevant. Consider the following quote from Christine Knott’s article “How to use vocal pitch and pace on the phone” (2/25/09):
Put into percentage terms it equates to 7 per cent words, 38 per cent vocal characteristics, and 55 per cent body language. This means that over half the message is transferred by our body actions and facial expressions, which are viewed in order to receive the content of the message.
When the transmission of our message relies solely on our voice, as in a phone call, there is a maximum of 45% communication resources available–less than half.
How well we communicate is determined not by how well we say things, but how well we are understood.~ Andrew Grove
“The problem with communication … is the illusion that it has been accomplished. ” ~ George Bernard Shaw
You can see how the full utilization of vocal pitch, pace, and inflection would make a difference in the effectiveness of our message’s transmission. All of the visual cues from facial expressions and other body language are unavailable; this is a huge loss.
Moreover, the study “Facial Expression and Vocal Pitch Height: Evidence of an Intermodal Association” by David Huron, et al. July 8, 2009, stated that their “results [were] consistent with prior research showing that vocal pitch height is used to signal aggression (low pitch) or appeasement (high pitch).”
Like any habit or skill, it takes practice. You may feel self-conscious at first, but I bet you will find a more positive reaction on the other side of the line. Remember, they cannot see your face. If you sound annoyed, they will react accordingly. Start the conversation off on the right foot and you will be amazed.
It’s strange how the inflection of a simple one-word response can change the entire course of a conversation.
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Thank you so much, Tony, for taking the time to read the post and comment. I appreciate that.
Great points- another habit that I have gotten into is when you first answer the phone and the caller says “this is Joe with ABC Company..I stop and say Hi Joe- how are you today? This is also a bit disarming as well- and it gets them to engage with you rather than spouting off what they need with no niceties at all. Also, sometimes if they ask how I am I say I am SO good..it leaves them hanging a little bit and makes them curious..again, bringing them into the conversation.
I like it!
Thank you for taking the time to read the post and comment.
I appreciate that.
I can always use tip on how to better handle phone calls. I like the idea to disarm the other end, making it a comfortable conversation or at least more personal. Good blog for us in the office!
Thanks Jamie. 😀