What does it mean to have a good telephone voice?

Having a good telephone voice, or telephone manner, will mean slightly different things to different people. But a good telephone manner can make or break the outcome of all sorts of situations. For example, making a sale, handling a complaint, providing a service, coming to an agreement, and dealing with an emergency. In this day and age having a good telephone manner is vital to having a successfully run organisation.

Having a good telephone voice means that others like talking to you on the telephone. It means that you have an ability to help people solve problems in a caring way; even if they don’t express care for you. Having a good telephone voice means that you know how to communicate well on the phone.

But how do you get a good telephone voice? Are you just born with it or can you improve it with training and practice? Here are some key components to what it means to have a good telephone voice.

man wearing brown suit jacket mocking on white telephone
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Active listening

Part of having a good telephone voice requires you to be good at listening. Lots of people will refer to his as active listening. Some traits of active listening include: paying attention, listening without interrupting(unless necessary), reflecting what you a have been told back to the person talking to you, and clarifying what you have been told back to that person.

Using verbals nods

Verbal nods are also a good way of demonstrating a good telephone voice. Many people will do this naturally. But it doesn’t come naturally to everyone. Verbal nods are the times in a conversation when you say little phrases like “uh hu”, “ok”, “mmm hmmm”. People who are naturally empathetic and inquisitive are the types of people that do this naturally. But if you don’t do it naturally you can still use them.

An important thing to remember however is that you need to really apply active listening in order to understand someone and empathise with their situation. Otherwise someone may well see through your pseudo-sincerity and find you offensive and insulting.

Repeating back what you hear

This doesn’t mean act like a parrot and repeat back everything you hear to someone. Because someone will likely find that really irritating and annoying. This means that you can repeat back key points that someone might be making to you. Quite often it’s worthwhile making notes of these things whilst you are talking to them. For example, “7 O’Clock, at the Train Station on Saturday 3rd June.”

Repeating back what you hear is part of active listening. It’s a chance for you to demonstrate to the person you are speaking to you that you are listening. It’s also an opportunity for you to clarify and confirm what you think you heard and understand.

woman engineer talking on phone
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Talking clearly so people can understand you

Simply put sometimes people are hard to understand. This isn’t about someone speaking a different language to you. Because if someone doesn’t know your language then you have to do more than just talk louder or slower at them. You do things like gesture and use visuals.

This is about recognising that even people who speak the same language can have difficulty understanding each other from time to time. Accents, dialects, pronunciation, and using slang and local terminology are typically the issues here. So, just be mindful of this and remember that not everyone communicates in the same way. Be prepared to repeat yourself.

Asking good quality questions

Quite often when you are talking to someone on the phone in a work capacity the objective is to solve a problem. So, you need to get answers. Then you will get information to help you provide a solution to a problem.

But sometimes people might ask you or you might ask someone a poor quality question that isn’t helping to get the information required. That’s when you might need to ask a better quality question to help tease out the information you need.

Being able to rephrase things

Both talking clearly and asking good quality questions could make use of the ability to be able to rephrase things. Instead of using complicated jargon and terminology just use simple to understand everyday words. That might be a way to rephrase something.

But also the ability to recognise when someone isn’t grasping the question you are asking can be an opportunity to rephrase what you are saying so that the understand your question differently.

Check out this classic clip from The Two Ronnies demonstrating just how communication can go wrong.

Being able to navigate through difficult parts of a conversation

In a conversation someone might talk to you in a rude way or use offensive language. Likewise, the conversation might touch on the topic that makes you or the person you are talking to uncomfortable. Having some stock phrases to use in conversation might help both you can the person you are talking to navigate to the next phase of a conversation.

“Thank you for sharing that with me…”

“I don’t appreciate being spoken to like that, unfortunately if you continue talking in that way I will have to terminate the call.”

It might seem a little synthetic and contrived. But it is simply you being able to demonstrate situational awareness and assertiveness to manage a situation. Having a plan of what to do if something happens is a good thing.

Controlling and surfing your emotions

You might get upset. You might get angry. You might get flustered and confused. There is a whole spectrum and range of emotions you can feel in life. There is every chance you will experience them on the phone.

The key thing to remember is that they are all entirely normal. Emotions are just phases of sensation that you experience in a given moment. They will often pass. So do your best to remember what you need to do in order to progress the situation and conduct yourself in a way that you would like to.

Good understanding and use of tone

Tone will tell you everything you need to know about how a conversation is going. So, being able to interpret and express tones is a huge skill when it comes to talking on the phone. The thing to remember is that a tone is unique to a person. Not every person and every culture uses tones in the same way. Do your best to read someones’s emotions through the changes in their tone of voice whilst you speak to them.

Appropriately interrupting

Interrupting someone isn’t always rude. Appropriate use of interrupting is actually fantastic customer service. You can help get to the point sooner and find a solution to a problem quicker. This will save people time, money, and energy. This is especially important in emergency situations.

Just remember to be respectful.

Using patience and resilience

Breathe in.

Breathe out.

Get a clear picture in your mind of what you need to do and why.

Do it.

It’s inevitable that at some point you are going to have your patience and resilience tested. So, just be prepared to put into practice what you need to when that time comes. Stay relaxed and do what is required to get the job done.

Using good manners

Ultimately, good telephone manners are using the same good manners you would use when speaking to someone face to face but using them on a telephone. The interesting thing is that people can and will actually consciously or subconsciously adjust their communication depending on their environment and situation. The best thing to do is always work to good principles and overtime you will be able to use them in a whole range of situations.


Born in Wolverhampton. Raised in Wolverhampton and Exmouth. Educated in Wolverhampton, Exmouth, and Kingston. Living in Exeter.

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