Phone calls vex me.
Assertiveness is toward the bottom of my list of personality traits.
I would rather streak across the Super Bowl football field holding a neon sign over my head than confront anyone about anything ever.
But part of adulting is doing all of the above. And I do them often. In order to manage my home and family, I have to make uncomfortable phone calls, and with the high needs of my kids, I would bet those come more often than average.
For me, a socially anxious introvert, to move past this and be a somewhat effective human being, adult and parent, I developed a hack. The one social skill I actually do possess is the ability to find something my conversation partner will talk about. And in so doing, I throw in a handful or two of sugar, (or sometimes ten). I am great at getting people to feel good, or at least better about themselves, and getting a chuckle out of a mediocre joke.
For example, yesterday I had to call my son’s doctor three times for the same issue. Each time I spoke with a different person, someone who had contributed nothing to my frustrations. It would have been misplaced at best for me to act out the annoyance on person 3, who was doing her best to solve our problem, but at the same time, I was to the point where if the job didn’t get done right a supervisor would need to get involved. Yet I was acutely aware of the fact that if I was a jerk, things would only go downhill. So I started joking.
In my experience, at least two thirds of the time that you’re on the phone with a customer service representative, they will mention that the computer is slow. This is pretty much a freebie. I make fun of the computer, and suddenly we’re allies.
Then I thank them for just doing their job, even if they haven’t done it yet. There’s a good chance that the person I’m talking to has had a few frustrating conversations already that day, so if I can be the one that makes them feel like what they’re doing is worth it, it is that much more likely that they’ll get the job done quickly and well.
Then I find a reason to compliment them. This completes my trifecta.
I get great results with this formula, and hopefully leave the person I speak with in a little better place than I found them, which is a goal of mine in virtually every interaction ever. But the bottom line is that I do it for me. It’s a coping skill.
Having a set formula for phone interactions not only gets me the results I’m seeking, and gives the person I speak with a boost, it’s the ticket to dealing with what might otherwise derail me. I remind myself before dialing just what my steps should be, and having a plan empowers me to have an effective conversation.
It works in person too.