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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: On the Telephone (11/18/10)

TITLE: Be Ready Always To Give An Answer
By Virgil Youngblood


The honorably discharged naval officer had survived depth-bomb attacks aboard a submarine. Now employed as a branch manager of a national company, being tethered to a telephone was building a keg of emotions in him nearing critical mass. That’s why I think Roger (not his real name) declared a holiday on a lovely day in 1961. All branch employees were ordered to spend Saturday partying with him and his wife on Padre Island.

He was alone waist-deep in the surf holding a fishing rod; the soothing sounds of waves whispering shoreward working their magic like a good back rub. The new hire’s wife, thinking Roger’s aversion to telephones to be an inside joke, came prepared to make an impression and flaunt her impressive marketing skills.

All eyes riveted on the unfolding drama when she began dancing through the lacy foam-topped breakers toward Roger. Clad in an eye-catching yellow bikini, chic sunglasses, a wide brimmed blue straw hat and a red shoulder bag, she zeroed in on the unsuspecting fisherman like a locked-on-target torpedo. Roger had just looked over his shoulder noticing her when the distinctive ring of a telephone pealed forth from her bag. Reaching in she removed a black telephone receiver, put it to her ear and then extended her hand to Roger saying, “This call is for you.”

Wheeling, Roger dropped his fishing rod into the surf and lunged shoreward, his anguished cry sending seagulls banking away on the wind. It was painfully obvious he had more problems than anyone realized. Today we call it PTSD, post traumatic stress disorder. Back then we just said “shell shocked.” There was something about Roger’s military experience that made talking on a telephone difficult for him.

Before cell phones, the surf was a safe haven from telephone tag.

Over forty years of business management experience and observations about the changing dynamics of the telephone give credence to the old proverb: “the more things change the more they stay the same.”

Too few businesses train their employees in telephone etiquette. Establishing positive relationships with their customers are often left to chance.

Have you called a business asking for someone by name and the receptionist asks, “May I say who’s calling?” If you want to hear a receptionist stutter just reply, “Sure.”

The receptionist’s question implies that depending upon who you are, you may or may not be important enough to speak to the person you called for.

Every employee should make a list of the top ten most difficult telephone calls to handle satisfactorily, and prepare a response card for each topic. Then they will be prepared to manage conversation in a positive manner.

As a retired bank officer I can tell you that if I had received a telephone call from someone threatening to blow up the bank with a bomb, or that a member of my family was being held hostage, I knew how to respond. In this type of situation every second is critical. You must be prepared in advance to have a chance for a good outcome.

Intrusive marketing calls at home or at work are seldom appreciated. How do you handle them? A polite “No thank you, I’m not interested” will end most calls. But sometimes that doesn’t work. Hanging up does and is one alternative.

Another is, lay the telephone down and go on about your business. After a while a frustrated voice will be heard hollering “Hey! Are you there?” or something like that, and then a dial tone.

A friend takes another tactic. She responds saying “I’m so glad you called. I’m so lonely. I just need to talk to someone. I’ll listen to you in a minute but I want to tell you about …” and she goes on and on and on until the caller hangs up.

Another individual responds, “I’ll try to answer your questions but first, I want to talk to you about spiritual matters. Okay?”

Years ago I impulsively responded on the telephone in a manner I still regret. I guess you can say, the first liar doesn’t stand a chance. I had telephoned a man about his past due loan payment and he said “God told me I don’t have to pay you.”

“When did you talk to God?” I had to ask.

“Last night.”

“Well” I said, “I’ve talked to God since then. He told me to tell you to go ahead and make your payment.”

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This article has been read 358 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 11/27/10
I enjoyed this fun light hearted take on different ways of dealing with the telephone. It was a fresh approach and an enjoyable read.
Sunny Loomis 11/29/10
Good job. I've encountered some of these. Thank you.
Lollie Hofer12/01/10
This was a unique approach to the topic with some good laughs along the way. Except for that poor ex-soldier with the aversion to telephones. Poor guy.