What’s up Advanced English learners, Mary Daphne here. If we’re meeting for the first time, welcome! This is the place to be to improve your fluency, confidence, and clarity in English communication.
For many people, speaking on the phone is one of the most anxiety-inducing social activities. Telephone phobia is actually a type of social phobia or social anxiety. Now, compound this reality with the fact that English might not be your first language. In that case, there might be the added anxiety of linguistic and cultural barriers to communication.
In this lesson, I’m going to teach you how to have a successful telephone conversation in English.
Ok, onto the strategies.
(1) Know what you are going to say
Have an outline with a few bullet points about your main reason for calling or for having this conversation. It’s important to prepare your content for the telephone call if you are the one placing the call.
Also, include the following bits of information:
(a) why are you calling? (For example, are you calling for information about something, are you placing a food order, is it a business call? Are you making a doctor’s appointment or another appointment like at a hair salon? Are you calling the bank?)
(b) who are you speaking with / who is your audience? Do you know this person?
(c) what is the purpose of the call? (to schedule an appointment, to catch up with a friend, to order food).
If you are the person receiving the phone call, it’s a good idea to jot down a few notes or bullet points as you listen to the person introduce themselves and figure out why they are calling. You can always follow up with another call or even an email if you need some time to think about what they said or what they are asking.
(2) Use Your Nonverbals
With phone calls, even when we can’t see the person or they can’t see us, nonverbal communication is still important. Nonverbal communication includes our hand gestures, facial expressions, and microexpressions -- those quick expressions that flash across our faces within a fraction of a second. When we speak to someone in person, we are using our nonverbals. Right? We use our hands when we talk naturally. Believe it or not, using your hand gestures on a phone call can help you express yourself and deliver your message clearly.
(3) Slow it down
The phone is a lower resolution communication channel, meaning we only hear the person’s voice, we can’t see them. For this reason, it’s important to speak slower than you would if you were in a face-to-face conversation. Speak as clearly as possible and enunciate your words. Since you are speaking a bit more slowly, you also buy yourself some thinking time. Meaning, you can think about what you are going to say before saying it. Also, it gives the other person an opportunity to ask questions if they missed something.
(4) Do a Comprehension Check
If you are giving someone information, have them repeat it back to you. The easiest example of this is when you give a phone number or address. Make sure they understood it and recorded it correctly. You can ask them to repeat the number back to you or spell the address or email out to ensure they got it. You can say “Wanna read that back to me?” “Wanna repeat the phone number so I know you got it?” They’ll appreciate it and it gives them a chance to double-check.
(5) Get Confirmation
Similar to doing a comprehension check, you also want to make sure that you’ve understood the information correctly. You can say “So to confirm, we’re meeting on the 21st at noon at the corner cafe?” That ensures you’re both on the same page. This could also be an opportunity to get clarification.
Alright, so those are the 5 ways you can have a successful telephone conversation In English. If you’re placing the call, have an outline with points you will be making and questions you’ll ask. If you are receiving the call, have a notepad handy so that you can jot down a few notes and questions you might have during the phone call. Use your hand gestures to help you articulate the message and speak more confidently. Remember that it’s not a race, you can slow down your speech so that you have time to think and ask/answer questions. Check their comprehension to make sure you’re on the same page. And as the receiver of information, you can also get confirmation and even clarification in some cases.
So now that I’ve shared my thoughts, I want to hear from you. What other strategies allow us to have successful phone calls? What has been working for you? Share that with me in the comments below.
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