Monday, April 16, 2007

Phone Flirting


Fergus to Phone scale
Originally uploaded by belliebottom.
Consider body language. As humans, we think that most communication happens from mouth to ear. One speaks and the other listens. Reality is so much different. A lot of communication happens outside the spoken word. Through facial expressions, posture and position a lot is communicated. Am I bored, excited or interested? All of these are instantly communicated through body language.

Which makes conversing on the phone or the cell phone that much more difficult. There are currently some cell phone commercials that illustrate the point nicely. An employee is talking to the boss when all of a sudden the phone goes silent. Then the employee is left wondering: did I say something wrong? am I in trouble? Of course, in the commercial, the call was dropped. During a phone call you can't see how the person is reacting, making it more difficult to truly communicate.

Fours steps can be applied to any conversation and to phone conversations in particular. The steps are: ask, listen, follow up, show and tell. Each is a simple and natural part of human communication.

Ask

People love to talk about themselves. After all, we know a lot about the subject. Even if you are not an expert on anything else, you are the world authority on yourself. Asking someone about their life is a great way to get a conversation going and also to get to know the person better.

A good way of asking is to ask "open ended questions". These are questions that do not have a yes-no answer. A bad question is "Do you like your job?" while a good question is "Tell me about your job." Notice the difference. The first is a yes-no question. Yes, I like my job. No, I do not like my job. End of conversation.

The second is better. While both questions are asking basically the same thing, the second lets the listener know you want details. It encourages a detailed response or a story. Asking an open ended question shows that you are interested in the person.

It is ok to ask a yes-no question, as long as it is followed up by an open ended question.
  • Do you have a job? yes-no
  • Tell me about your job. open ended
What are some good questions to ask? The best questions to ask are related to the interests of the person: home, family, food, job, children, childhood memories, school, vacation, goals, interests and hobbies.

Talking on the phone makes some people uncomfortable. It is then easy to forget what you had wanted to say. For this reason, it would be a good idea to prepare a few questions beforehand. Before picking up the phone, pick up a pencil and write a few questions you want to ask. This way, you will be prepared even if you lose your train of thought.

Some good questions to ask to get people talking:
  • Tell me about your family.
  • If you could go anywhere on vacation, where would it be.
  • What was the best thing about being a kid?
  • What was one of your most embarrassing moments?
  • Do you have a hobby? How did you get started?
  • Tell me the most romantic thing that has every happened to you.
  • What are your talents?
  • What would you like to do but haven't been able to do?
  • If you were going to be stuck on a deserted isle, what 3 things would you take with you?
  • What makes you laugh?
  • Where are you ticklish?
  • Tell me about your family traditions
  • What is your favorite meal?
Good questions include those that start with: Tell me about ..., How do you feel about ..., If you could ... By asking questions that show genuine interest, a person will be more willing to open up and talk. This is particularly true for people already in a relationship. We love it when our partners show a genuine interest in our lives.

Listen

Once a question is asked it is important to listen to the answer. Listening is not hearing, is is much more than that. Listening is not daydreaming and waiting for the speaker to take a breath. Listening is not thinking about what you are going to say next.

Listening is being an active listener. While your sweetheart is speaking, pay attention to what is being said. This would include removing any distractions such as turning of the television. Being an active listener is more important on the phone because all the non-verbal cues have been removed. Not only do you need to listen to the words, but also for the intent.

An active listener will respond to the speaker without interruption. Especially on the phone, your sweetheart will need to know that you are really listening. Respond with verbal cues like: "yes", "really?", "I didn't know that", "tell me more". These simple statements let the speaker know you are listening and are interested in what is being said.

Follow up

Once your sweetie has finished speaking on a subject it is time for you to follow up. This can be done in 3 ways: ask a follow-on question, ask another open-ended question (see step 1) or show and tell (see below). These three things will help to keep the conversation moving in a natural and pleasing way.

Asking a follow-up question is a great way to show interest and that your were really listening. A follow-up question is a question asked based on what was said earlier. For example, you asked about her family and she mentioned that her father is a bus driver. A good follow-up question might be: Your dad must see a lot of interesting people, tell me about them.

Follow-up questions allow you to show interest and keep the conversation going. They also let you know more about each other.

Show and Tell

Most people do not like to dominate a conversation. Your sweetie will also want to know details of your life as well. Be prepared to answer the questions you are asking. A great way to prepare is to have a story ready. Everyone likes to hear a story. When you are preparing your questions, also prepare a story to tell for each one. Try and make the stories be funny ones. Laughter is very romantic. This way you can also hold up your end of the conversation.

Cell phones have a camera. You can sending each other pictures and then talk about them. It is so easy to include your sweetie in whatever is going on, even when you are not able to be together. Some picture ideas:
  • Send a picture of yourself sad and say this is I how I feel when we are apart.
  • Send a picture of yourself smiling and say this is how you make me feel.
  • Send a picture of your lunch
  • Send a picture of the sunset
  • Take a picture of your sweetie and send it to them (if they are right next to you).
Summary

Following the four steps of ask, listen, follow up, and show and tell will help you overcome the barriers to communication that phones and cell phones create. These same principles apply to all sorts of electronic communication including email, instant messaging and texting.
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