Networking: Tonedeaf Etiquette

How you conduct yourself on a phone call says a lot about your style, demeanor and self-control. Just like everything else you do. But a cell phone call is a special and ever growing arena.

First of all, a cell phone call is fundamentally challenged. Reception is never perfectly stable, it usually happens when at least one of the parties is in a noisy place or “on the go” and because of this, at least one of the parties is distracted by the surroundings. Still, how you talk to someone is as important as what you’re talking about. And yet, this seems to be lost on so many.

If you’re prone to busting eardrums, people are not going to want to take your call.

For one thing, don’t make any loud or sudden noises, like I expect from Jan. Every time he calls me, I know that at some unsuspecting point, he’s going to let out a deep exhale, burp, cough, sigh or chew a carrot or something. This hurts. It pierces. Unlike a landline phone, there is little buffer between the speaker and the ear, so the sounds you make go right through the receiver and into the brain. It’s very logical: If you’re prone to busting eardrums, people are not going to want to take your call.

A polished networker has the grace of nuance, the sophistication of patience and the good sense to pause to let the other guy in. It’s called manners. Unlike Cindy, who calls me, “Yap yap yap yapyapyappity yap ya…” She’s got one hour to get to some fish she’s trying to fry and wants my help. But six seconds into the conversation I know I don’t even know the guy she’s hunting. So I’m trying to tell her, I mean I’m shouting, SHOUTING, into the phone, “Wait, hang on, just a sec,” and she can’t hear me because she’s too busy talking. Finally, I hang up. Ten minutes later, she calls me back and asks, “Where did I drop you?”

And remember, networking is about discretion (and walkie-talkies are for grade school). I know there’s supposed to be some hands-free law, but unless you’re driving a car, there’s no reason to use speakerphone. I’m on the phone with you to talk to you and I have to trust that’s all I’m talking to. If I wanted to broadcast myself, I’d get a show on public access.

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