Advertising
Advertising

More Fight The Flab!

More Fight The Flab!

How To Lose the Useless Items that Weigh Down Your Day (Part 2)

I promised that this second installment would deal with cellphone calls. Cellphones are useful, but they can also be extremely distracting. You don’t want to stop genuinely useful calls reaching you. You do want to exclude calls that will waste your time.

Advertising

It’s important to bear this central principle in mind: accept what you cannot change (your boss calling you, for example), but never do anything that will make the problem worse. That means three things:

Advertising

  • Filtering as many calls as possible, so you get to choose which ones you answer immediately.
  • Working to “train” likely callers to leave messages. This means always calling back. No one will leave a message they think you’ll simply ignore. It also helps to include something in your answering message to let them know when your return call will come. If you make a practice of returning all calls before the end of the business day, say so.
  • Trying not to waste time when you either take a call or return one from earlier. Be prepared before you call and stick to the topic.

The single most important way to save time with cellphones is to organize to receive calls on your schedule as much as possible. When people call you, they expect an immediate response, so you have to try to prevent them reaching you directly whenever you can.

  • Filter all calls, exactly as you should with any other telephone. Because a cellphone suggests urgency by its nature, even people who rigorously filter their land-line calls will answer anyone who calls their cellphone. This is a bad mistake. It’s just another phone, people. Treat it as such.
  • Keep your cellphone switched off as much as possible, sending calls to that answering service. Check it regularly (always on your schedule) and prioritize returning calls in the same way as e-mails.
  • If the phone is on, try to get a service that includes Caller ID. Look to see who’s calling and don’t answer if you don’t have to. If you’re anxious about what the message might be, check with the answering service immediately. If it isn’t urgent (and at least 95% won’t be), leave it alone and get on with what you are doing.
  • If you have to answer, listen carefully to the request and decide if it’s urgent enough to interrupt what you’re doing. If it isn’t, say you’re tied up right now and will get back to the caller later. You can give a time, if you like. “I’m tied up now, but I’ll call you back around 2:30 p.m.”
  • If the caller says it will only take a moment, don’t give in. Repeat that you’re busy and will call back. Never give in to someone else’s impatience without an overwhelming reason.
  • Never give your cellphone number on your main phone answering message, even if you say it’s for emergencies only. Make sure you restrict knowledge of your cellphone number as much as you can, preferably just to those people who might genuinely need to have it for an emergency, and don’t give it to anyone else. Make them wait.

It’s going to feel hard at first. People will complain. They’re used to the immediate gratification of getting you to stop what you’re doing to attend to their needs. But, in time, they’ll get the message. Remember that 95% or more of what they want can wait, with no harm done.

Advertising

One final point. If you want people to take your attempts to deal professionally with cellphone communication, always practice what you preach. Don’t interrupt others unless it’s essential. Leave clear, helpful messages. And don’t use your business cellphone for the subject that fills most of our airwaves: gossip.

P.S. Our survey over on Slow Leadership is still open. Please give us your thoughts, if you haven’t done so already. Here’s the link. If we can get a large enough sample, we’ll be able to persuade the wider media to take notice of the movement to make work more civilized. Thanks.

Advertising

Adrian Savage is an Englishman and a retired business executive who lives in Tucson, Arizona. You can read his serious thoughts most days at Slow Leadership, the site for anyone who wants to bring back the taste, zest and satisfaction to leadership; and his crazier ones at The Coyote Within.

More by this author

6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak Why Working 9 to 5 Is Outdated Have You Ever Wished Your Kids Will Beg To Do Their Chores? 20 Things People Regret the Most Before They Die Overcoming The Pain Of A Breakup: 3 Suggestions Based On Science

Trending in Communication

1 40 Acts of Kindness to Make the World a Better Place 2 6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak 3 How to Train Your Brain to Be Optimistic 4 How to Stop Living on Autopilot with Antonio Neves 5 The Gentle Art of Saying No For a Less Stressful Life

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on August 6, 2020

6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

We’ve all done it. That moment when a series of words slithers from your mouth and the instant regret manifests through blushing and profuse apologies. If you could just think before you speak! It doesn’t have to be like this, and with a bit of practice, it’s actually quite easy to prevent.

“Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.” – Napolean Hill

Are we speaking the same language?

My mum recently left me a note thanking me for looking after her dog. She’d signed it with “LOL.” In my world, this means “laugh out loud,” and in her world it means “lots of love.” My kids tell me things are “sick” when they’re good, and ”manck” when they’re bad (when I say “bad,” I don’t mean good!). It’s amazing that we manage to communicate at all.

When speaking, we tend to color our language with words and phrases that have become personal to us, things we’ve picked up from our friends, families and even memes from the internet. These colloquialisms become normal, and we expect the listener (or reader) to understand “what we mean.” If you really want the listener to understand your meaning, try to use words and phrases that they might use.

Am I being lazy?

When you’ve been in a relationship for a while, a strange metamorphosis takes place. People tend to become lazier in the way that they communicate with each other, with less thought for the feelings of their partner. There’s no malice intended; we just reach a “comfort zone” and know that our partners “know what we mean.”

Advertising

Here’s an exchange from Psychology Today to demonstrate what I mean:

Early in the relationship:

“Honey, I don’t want you to take this wrong, but I’m noticing that your hair is getting a little thin on top. I know guys are sensitive about losing their hair, but I don’t want someone else to embarrass you without your expecting it.”

When the relationship is established:

“Did you know that you’re losing a lot of hair on the back of your head? You’re combing it funny and it doesn’t help. Wear a baseball cap or something if you feel weird about it. Lots of guys get thin on top. It’s no big deal.”

It’s pretty clear which of these statements is more empathetic and more likely to be received well. Recognizing when we do this can be tricky, but with a little practice it becomes easy.

Have I actually got anything to say?

When I was a kid, my gran used to say to me that if I didn’t have anything good to say, I shouldn’t say anything at all. My gran couldn’t stand gossip, so this makes total sense, but you can take this statement a little further and modify it: “If you don’t have anything to say, then don’t say anything at all.”

A lot of the time, people speak to fill “uncomfortable silences,” or because they believe that saying something, anything, is better than staying quiet. It can even be a cause of anxiety for some people.

When somebody else is speaking, listen. Don’t wait to speak. Listen. Actually hear what that person is saying, think about it, and respond if necessary.

Am I painting an accurate picture?

One of the most common forms of miscommunication is the lack of a “referential index,” a type of generalization that fails to refer to specific nouns. As an example, look at these two simple phrases: “Can you pass me that?” and “Pass me that thing over there!”. How often have you said something similar?

Advertising

How is the listener supposed to know what you mean? The person that you’re talking to will start to fill in the gaps with something that may very well be completely different to what you mean. You’re thinking “pass me the salt,” but you get passed the pepper. This can be infuriating for the listener, and more importantly, can create a lack of understanding and ultimately produce conflict.

Before you speak, try to label people, places and objects in a way that it is easy for any listeners to understand.

What words am I using?

It’s well known that our use of nouns and verbs (or lack of them) gives an insight into where we grew up, our education, our thoughts and our feelings.

Less well known is that the use of pronouns offers a critical insight into how we emotionally code our sentences. James Pennebaker’s research in the 1990’s concluded that function words are important keys to someone’s psychological state and reveal much more than content words do.

Starting a sentence with “I think…” demonstrates self-focus rather than empathy with the speaker, whereas asking the speaker to elaborate or quantify what they’re saying clearly shows that you’re listening and have respect even if you disagree.

Advertising

Is the map really the territory?

Before speaking, we sometimes construct a scenario that makes us act in a way that isn’t necessarily reflective of the actual situation.

A while ago, John promised to help me out in a big way with a project that I was working on. After an initial meeting and some big promises, we put together a plan and set off on its execution. A week or so went by, and I tried to get a hold of John to see how things were going. After voice mails and emails with no reply and general silence, I tried again a week later and still got no response.

I was frustrated and started to get more than a bit vexed. The project obviously meant more to me than it did to him, and I started to construct all manner of crazy scenarios. I finally got through to John and immediately started a mild rant about making promises you can’t keep. He stopped me in my tracks with the news that his brother had died. If I’d have just thought before I spoke…

Read Next