Transforming Talk at Work | July 2015


Dear Reader,

A few weeks ago, I met an individual (let’s call him Gary) at a conference where I was speaking. Gary wanted to learn more about the topic on which I spoke and we and committed to being in touch. We traded voicemails a number of times before actually connecting. One of his voicemails came in at 7:00 pm on a Friday evening. When my phone rang at that hour, I assumed it was an accidental dial – a butt dial, if you will. I let it go to voicemail since it was after hours and I was not working.

Imagine my surprise when I listened to that voicemail on Monday morning: Indeed it was a butt-dial and the message in my voicemail lasted a full two and a half minutes (the limit before my voicemail hangs up). In those two and a half minutes, I learned that Gary had at least two children, I learned how he spoke to his children when he thought no one was listening and generally what he’s like away from the office.

Most of what I heard was Gary interacting with one of his children in a gruff voice: “Put your sister down.” Pause. “Do not pick up your sister.” Pause. Now, loudly: “How many times do I have to tell you to NOT pick up your sister? It’s against the rules. Stop it!”

Although much of what I heard Gary say has been said in my house, too, hearing it from a new connection in my network permanently shaped my impression of him. I listened with equal parts empathy and horror. Empathy because I know that parenting situation and others like it all too well. Horror because his communication behavior was shocking in comparison to the positive first impression he’d made on me at the conference.

All was not lost in this inadvertent peek in on his parenting. I gained more compassion for him. Gary now shows up to me as a multi-dimensional person, one who is at once balancing the demands of his career while raising a family – not unlike myself.

Usually such intimate knowledge is disclosed intentionally and slowly over time as trust grows in a relationship. In this case, the disclosure was unintentional, unknown to the sender, and undoable. I cannot unhear what I heard on that voicemail. It left an indelible impression on me.

July is National Cell Phone Courtesy Month, and while its intended purpose is to raise awareness around being courteous in public while using mobile phones, we can take that one step further and be courteous about butt dials, mis-dials and texts sent to the wrong people.

The next time you are about to put your phone in your purse or your pocket, lock it down – it could save your butt – from making a butt dial.


Reverse Engineer: How to Be More Courteous with Your Mobile Phone

1. Be deliberate about who you are dialing (or texting). Is it really the person you intend to connect with or is the last person you spoke with (or texted) still queued up? Take an extra second to ensure that you are connecting with the right person.
2. Do not create noise pollution for others. Be aware of your surroundings before using your device. Are others within earshot? How will overhearing your conversation impact their activities?
3. Limit background noise. Consider what the person you’re talking to can hear. Are you in an appropriate venue for making a call? One with limited background noise (and NO flushing toilets!)?
4. Be fully present. Do you have ample bandwidth to speak to someone at this moment? If you are with other people, eating a meal, or driving, the answer is most likely “no.”
5. Lock or turn off your device when not in use. It takes just a split second to lock your phone before tossing it into your purse, briefcase or pocket. That split second could save, well, your butt.


Digest This: Better Questions

8 Common Smartphone Mistakes You’re Making at Work (Forbes)
According to a research study published earlier this year, senior managers report that the biggest faux pau employees make is inappropriate and untimely use of their cell phones at work. Don’t let your smartphone be a career limiting device. Learn what the top eight breaches of cell phone etiquette are and what to do instead.

Conquering Digital Distraction (Harvard Business Review)
Chances are you are wasting 25% of your time managing your digital data streams, thanks in large part to your smartphone. The key to gaining some control over your digital overload so that it doesn’t control you? Strategic use of tools like smartphones. This article outlines several specific actions to take to regain the upper hand on digital distraction.

8 Ways to Break Bad Smartphone Habits (Entrepreneur)
If you’re anywhere close to average, you look at your smartphone between 110 and 150 times per day (an underestimate, some would say). Ensure that your smartphone is an asset and a tool that helps you connect with others, rather than a source of interruption that comes between you and others with these easy-to-implement techniques.


My Treat: Why Comedian Louis C.K. Doesn’t Want to Get Mobile Phones for His Kids

Comedian Louis C.K. dishes on why he doesn’t want his daughters to have moblie phones in an interview with Conan O’Brien.



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This week’s post is on speaking up when you have a dissenting opinion.

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Until next time,

Janel Anderson, PhD
Workplace Communication Expert and CEO of Working Conversations

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