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Don’t blow up on the phone

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in Leaders & Managers,Workplace Communication

If your employees dread delivering bad news in person, they may call you instead. By accepting what they say with relative calm, you encourage them to reveal more information and propose solutions.

But if you yell into the phone, indulge in coarse language or sigh loudly, you exacerbate tension and close off chances to solve problems.

Try these techniques:

1.   Speak softly. Even though your instinct might be to raise your voice, force yourself to try the opposite. Turn your volume down. Make the caller strain a bit to hear you. You’ll sound less menacing while still conveying your concern. And you’ll have his undivided attention.

2.  Pause and regroup. If you’re tempted to blow up, say, “Hold on for a moment.” Then compose yourself in private. Experienced phone negotiators often insert a time-out in the middle of a difficult conversation by putting others on hold. You should too. In those 10 seconds, you can decide what questions to ask next, refer to data in a nearby file or simply release pent-up anger by standing and stretching.

3.  Take smart notes. As you hear bad news, write a numbered list. Then follow each number with an action item as you devise a plan. This forces you to focus on solutions rather than stewing over the problem and getting more upset.

4.  Give up the last word. End an unpleasant phone call by asking, “Anything else I should know?” Then be willing to listen. That way, you can hang up knowing you have the full story, so that you’re not blindsided later.

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