How to Be Your Best Self on That Tough Phone Call
Take the time to prepare. One of the challenges that come from a hectic work schedule is that we usually jump on phone calls, often without getting ourselves ready for the conversation. Going in unprepared usually just causes more time in putting fires out, instead of just taking a couple minutes to organize your thoughts beforehand.
I used to be really ineffective during tough phone calls because I let my emotions get the better of me. I would speak too quickly, rush through my words, interject random thoughts, and regularly put my foot in my mouth. Sound familiar?
Most of the things we tend to say under stressful situations can backfire. If we’re not prepared for tough conversations, we can easily make the problem worse before it gets better. And being effective during a tough phone call is important because it’s live, versus email or another situation where you have time to consider and revise your message.
I’ve learned that the hard way many times. Here are a few things I do to positively prime and prepare myself for a good phone call:
First, prime yourself ahead of time by thinking about the common goals you have with the person you will be talking with. This puts you into a collaborative mind-frame, and shows in your tone of voice, and even helps you choose more teamwork type words. To take it to the next level, think about what you most like or admire about the person you’re about to call. You may need to take a few minutes to develop regard for them, but it really does also help you be more thoughtful and respectful. This is particularly important if you’ve been focusing on problems.
Now, identify what the person most needs to hear to inspire them towards those common goals with you.
Don’t say things like, “Don’t take this wrong …” This statement negatively primes your listeners to “take wrong” what you’re going to say next. Instead focus on a good outcome and try to guide the call in the right direction, instead of trying to stop bad things from happening.
Don’t let your anxiety make you breathless and scattered. Determine what tone of voice the other person needs to hear to get them into the right mood. Take deep breaths to calm yourself and refocus on helping the other person.
Get physical. There are also ways to physically improve your confidence. This one makes sense if you’ve heard the research: Do a power pose. One example is the victory pose. Put your hands up in the air in a “V” as if you just won a sports contest. (Ideally do this in a place where not everyone is watching you J.) This affects your tone of voice and even the words you choose are more confident. Research says doing this for two minutes does it, but even thirty seconds works for me now that I’ve practiced. Another power pose is to put your arms behind your head and lean back in your chair.
Don’t make conflict worse. Don’t say something like, “I don’t want this problem to get worse …” This type of statement usually feels insulting to the other person or at the least they get defensive. Instead, say something like, “My goal is to come up with a solution that works for both of us,” which means the same thing, but takes the conversation in a different direction. Particularly if you’re in conflict with somebody think about something you value about that person. That helps me to be more open to them and makes my voice warmer. Plus, they’re more likely to respond positively to what you’re proposing.
If you want more priming tips, check out my YouTube channel. It’s full of fun and entertaining videos, and priming advice! And I’d love to hear your tips for tough phone calls. Just comment below.