But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath; but your yes is to be yes, and your no, no, so that you may not fall under judgment (James 5: 12)

An idiom says that you cannot judge a book by its cover, but how many of us make judgments about people based on their telephone speaking voice? People form opinions and make judgments about us within the first 60 seconds they see us. People also make judgments about us based on the way we sound on the telephone.

Because people cannot “see” us over the telephone, they will form these opinions based not only on what we say but also on how we say it. In fact, the message we communicate over the telephone is based on two qualities:

  1. “What,” we say (Verbal), and
  2. “How, ” we say it.

Several studies have indicated that as much as 87% of the opinions people form about us when speaking to us on the telephone is based on the tone of our voice. Only 13% is based on the actual words we use. We all do this. People can “hear” our personality and mannerisms through the tone of our voice. We live in a world of answering machines and “voice mail.” This is especially true in the business world. How many of us find ourselves playing “telephone tag” with each other. By the time you speak with the person you are trying to contact, you may have left two or three messages. In those short message exchanges, the party on the other line has already formed an opinion about you based solely on your speaking voice. Below are some tips which can help your spoken image as suggested by Lenny Laskowski, a renowned communication consultant, so that people can form a good image about you.


  1. Answer the telephone by the third ring: Answer the telephone or make sure your answering machine picks up the telephone by the third or fourth ring. Do not let the telephone ring forever. Many of us say how we hate speaking into these answering machines, but at the same time, we also hate not having the option of leaving a message.
  2. Make sure your greeting is professional: Make sure that your greeting is short but very professional. Write down and practice your greeting several times before you record your greeting. Play it back and listen to your speaking voice. Is your message too fast? Is it too slow? Make sure your greeting sounds professional and clear. Give the callers clear instructions what to do when leaving their message.
  3. Be prepared before you answer the telephone: Have a pad of paper and pencil ready when you answer the telephone. Be prepared to be an active listener and take notes when someone calls. Be sure to write down the name of the caller so that you can properly address the caller during your conversation. People love to hear their name.
  4. Be an active listener: Take notes as you speak. Let the people know that you are taking notes, and this will signal them not to speak too fast. Ask for the correct spelling of their name. Do not assume that their name is spelt as others as it may have a unique spelling.
  5. Return telephone calls promptly: This is the most professional telephone habit people should possess. Be that person who returns telephone calls. Many people do not return telephone calls. Try and return telephone calls quickly.
  6. Check your messages frequently: If you are out of your office often, check your message several times a day. People may be looking to contact you quickly. According to Laskowski, “it’s not unusual for me to receive calls from newspapers or magazines looking for information on a story. They are usually on a deadline and are looking for ‘quick’ turnaround. In my case, being a professional speaker, the call I receive may be a speakers’ bureau who is looking to check my availability for a client today! If I do not return the telephone call promptly, I may have lost that speaking engagement and that potential client.”

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