Stop sending all your calls to voicemail. You've got this!
Let’s be honest, nobody likes talking on the phone these days. At least, it seems like nobody in my generation — the infamous Millennial generation — likes it.
One of my good friends — a young woman who’s usually warm and social — greets anyone who tries to leave her a voicemail with the following message:
“Don’t bother leaving a message here because I won’t listen to it. Just text or email me. Death to phone calls!”
Hyperbolic voicemail messages aside, many people have a deep negative sentiment toward talking on the phone. The consensus among friends and clients is that talking on the phone makes us feel anxious, annoyed, and often disappointed in the lack of meaningful conversation.
And it’s not just strangers or acquaintances that we dread talking to on the phone — calls from people we are in intimate relationships with are some of the most dissatisfying calls of all.
What is it about phone calls that make young people recoil? There is, of course, the obvious reason: Millennials grew up on asynchronous forms of communication like text and email, so the pressure to actually make conversation is clearly felt over the phone.
But I don’t think this accounts for the whole anti-call phenomenon, as many of those same people who say they hate phone calls say they love in-person interaction.
In-person interaction requires making conversation too, right? So what’s the difference? Somehow, it seems to be the medium of the phone call itself that’s just… awkward.
Even when speaking with people we feel totally comfortable with in person, the phone call format makes everything feel more stilted, more forced, and often more shallow.
Is it time to give up on the phone call altogether? I would argue that it’s not. The phone call has continuing relevance for one simple reason: it’s still the best way to maintain relationships across physical distances.
You may never be in love with phone calls, but the 3 tips below will help make yours more comfortable, meaningful, and enjoyable:
1. Ask questions.
The simplest and easiest way to make conversations better is to start asking questions. Questions improve the flow of conversation, show the other person you’re interested in what they have to say, and allow you to focus in on the parts of the conversation you’re truly curious about.
Let’s say your brother tells you he’s thinking of selling his house. Instead of responding with a stilted “that’s cool,” attempt to hone in on what aspect of this fact you’re curious about. How did he decide to sell it? What is he hoping to gain from selling it? These are the questions that will make the conversation more interesting.
2. Devote less time to niceties and happenings.
When talking on the phone, almost all of us fall into the trap of discussing niceties and happenings — like what we did today, what we’re thinking of doing this weekend, and what we’re working on at the office. It’s common for two people to spend their entire conversation discussing these trivialities and walk away feeling like they didn’t connect with each other at all.
Instead, try to spend no more than 50% of the conversation on the recounting of these everyday happenings. This will free up time and energy for Tip #3, which is the heart and soul of satisfying conversations.
3. Draw understanding about the other person’s inner life.
This tip may sound daunting at first, but it’s shockingly simple in practice. The goal is simply to connect the other person’s happenings — the “what-did-you-do-todays” — with how that person feels about what they’re doing.
Let’s say your sister tells you she’s spent the last few days working on an article for publication. Instead of asking “When is the article due?” or “Where is it being published?” ask, “Do you enjoy writing articles?” or “What are your favorite things to write about?”
Do you see the difference between “When is the article due?” and “Do you enjoy writing articles?” The first question is about the article. The second question is about her.
Asking questions about the other person’s feelings, perspectives, and subjective experiences move you beyond just knowing about her day. They help you know about her inner life. They help you know her.
The next time someone you love calls you, give these tips a whirl. And let me know how the conversation goes in the comments!
Kira Asatryan is a certified relationship coach and author of Stop Being Lonely: Three Simple Steps to Developing Close Friendships and Deep Relationships. For more relationship tips, visit kiraasatryan.com and follow her on Twitter @KiraAsatryan.
This article was originally published at Psychology Today. Reprinted with permission from the author.