Telephone etiquette at workplace

Clarity, and respect for the person being called, go a long way in having an effective telephonic conversation

Haven’t we always known that only seven per cent of the communication is “verbal”? While about 38 per cent is attributed to the “vocal” element constituting of pitch, volume and rhythm, a huge 55 per cent is contributed by the “body language”. While on phone, we lose out on this 55 per cent as it is not a face-to-face encounter; the remaining 45 per cent needs to be covered up for the balance, in order to create the same impact on the other person.

Tips for effective telephone conversation

Answer a call not earlier than two rings and not later than three rings for the following reasons:

  • The buffer time of two rings should be used to consciously de-link from the earlier thought process since it is very difficult to continue the same trail of thought after a sudden break. This buffer time should also be used to cough up and clear the throat as it is bad manners to lift the phone to say ‘Hello’ and realise that the voice isn’t supporting.
  • The call should not be delayed beyond three rings; simply because what applies to others applies to us as well. Would we like to be kept waiting had we been the caller?

Answer yours calls with proper greeting. A higher position in the organisation is no reason to give an abrupt response of “Yes?”. Greet the caller followed by stating your company name. E.g. “Good Morning, Company Name”.

If you are the caller, then it is mandatory to introduce yourself. This holds true especially if you expect a known person to answer but hear a different voice. It is unsophisticated and crude to call and then ask, “Who’s this?” A greeting followed by an introduction and a polite request as in, “Good Morning, may I speak to.?” The use of the word “may” is more appropriate than either of “can” or “could”.

It is important to maintain a rhythm while speaking on the phone. What could perhaps be communicated in the form of hand gestures or facial expressions must be conveyed only through words. Hence a good pace and an even rhythm are essential. Don’t we often get irritated with people who tend to talk very fast and have sudden breaks – like a passenger in a speeding car giving sudden and frequent jerks with unexpected speed-breakers?

Clarity is yet another important element in telephonic conversation. In an attempt to impress, a phoney and borrowed accent can often irk the person at the other end, and cause more damage than good. One would rather be grammatically correct and use appropriate words than flaunt an artificial accent, especially with a tongue-rolling ‘r’. If in this process, a word is pronounced naturally without the accent, it could be embarrassing. Therefore it is safer to be natural than fake.

Continuity in a conversation can suffer with unnecessary and excessive use of certain stumbling or hesitating sounds such as ‘aah’ and ‘hmm’. These hinder the other person’s comprehension as well as interpretation. In official conversations too, one should avoid the use of certain sounds/phrases, which may be interpreted as either lack of content or lack of confidence on the part of the speaker. A few examples are given below.

  • “You know” — used usually at the end of a statement
  • “I mean” — used usually in the middle of a statement, breaking the flow of an ongoing statement.
  • “OK?” — used usually at the end of a statement, as a means to ask if the other person has understood.

A telephonic conversation can be very dry and banal with the usual way of talking. However, use of certain words used effectively at the right time, can do much more than simply carrying on the conversation. Genuine use of words such as “great” or “fantastic” instead of a “ya” or “OK” as a response to the other person’s suggestion can actually create good vibes and enliven him/her. Especially in business discussions, these small gestures benefit immensely.

Thus, while talking on the phone, a medium-paced, low-pitched, firm and modulated voice can be more effective than conversation without etiquette.

Tejasa Jhaveri
Tejasa Jhaveri is a co-promoter of the Transcend group of companies. Tejasa's core competency lies in conducting behavioral, managerial and functional training programs. Understanding people, teaching and training comes naturally to Tejasa. She has trained over 5000 people including companies, individuals and students.