Maintaining your focus is hard enough when you’re speaking face-to-face. It’s even harder on the phone when distractions swirl around you.
1. Lock your gaze on a neutral target: a tree branch outside your window, a painting on the wall, a photo on your desk. Anchoring your eyes on something that calms your mind can sharpen your attentiveness.
As an experiment, close your eyes while the speaker explains a key point. This helps you listen more closely and shut out potentially disruptive visual stimuli.
2. Stand when speaking, especially if you’re tired. Staying seated can impair your breathing and make you sound less confident. Standing can enhance your energy level and strengthen your tone.
3. Moderate your vocal tempo. If you talk too fast, you can undermine your authority. It’s easy to slur words together on the phone as you rush to express your thoughts.
4. Take a less-is-more approach when speaking. Use fewer words, complete your point and then stop and listen. Giving others more opportunities to chime in helps you build rapport and reduce misunderstanding.
5. If you’re dealing with slow talkers, patience pays off. Resist the urge to finish their sentences or interrupt to change the subject. Even if you’re privately annoyed, adjust to their slower pace and use the extra pockets of silence to retain what you hear and to empathize.
For agonizingly slow speakers, prod them gently with monosyllabic sounds (“hmmm”) to signal you’re listening. Take notes to remind yourself what you want to say next. And wait an extra second or two after you think they’re done speaking, rather than jump in too soon.
— Adapted from The Virtual Executive, D.A. Benton, McGraw-Hill.
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