Avoiding Awkward Situations Leave a (Non-Awkward) Message After the Tone Eliza Hurwitz

Due to many readers’ requests for advice regarding leaving voice messages, that’s what I’ve decided to talk about. If you couldn’t guess, I’m terrible at leaving voice mail. Especially if I’m not prepared; a lot of times I’m so anxious about the phone call, since I’m super awkward on the phone, that I completely forget that there’s even a chance that the person won’t pick up and I’ll have to leave a message. But with these tips you’ll be prepared and ready to leave the voice mails of your life!

Practice:

Just like ordering food, practice makes perfect. Before you call someone write down what you’re going to say and practice saying it aloud. But, make sure you don’t have a “reading voice” when you leave your voicemail. This might require more practice time but when everyone is complimenting you on your amazing voice message skills you won’t think about the countless hours and sleepless nights you spent practicing. You’ll be too busy leaving wonderful, natural, non-reading sounding voice mail after wonderful, natural, non-reading sounding voice mail.

It is important to remember, however, to give yourself multiple message options to choose from. You never know what this person’s voicemail is going to be like. If their voicemail is of them singing, for example, then maybe you should be prepared to sing or at least compliment them on their singing skills. Be prepared for anything and everything. You don’t want to sound shocked or confused, unless the theme of their voicemail is shocked and confused.

Use Your Environment:

When talking to a voice mailbox, speaking in front of a mirror helps. You give yourself the illusion of talking to someone else. If you want you can even paint/draw on certain parts of the mirror. For example, draw a hat, mustache, funny teeth, or a beak, this way when you look in the mirror your appearance is slightly different, emphasizing the illusion of talking to another person. Just make sure this person in the mirror doesn’t confuse you. It’s you, no matter how different you look. So don’t start talking in an English accent just because you’ve got on a fabulous fancy top hat.

Another way you can use your environment is if you find that your message is going too long and for some reason you just can’t stop talking. In this instance you can use your environment to force your message to come to an end. I’ll give you a couple of options. You could do the old tin foil trick. By crumbling up tin foil close to the speaker of the phone while making your voice sound choppy and static. If you think that’s been overdone and have trouble making your voice sound like white noise, then why not try what I call the  “Down Dog?” Although the “Down Dog” is a wonderful, relaxing pose in yoga, in voice-mail etiquette the “Down Dog” is loud, chaotic, and crazy. All you have to do is pretend you are yelling at your dog and say “Down dog!” It’s as easy as that. I highly suggest adding your own flair to it. For example, if you want to impress the person you’re calling you could say, “Down dog! Get away from those gourmet brownies I just made.” Or, “Down dog! Get away from my glass sculpture I sculpted of Benjamin Franklin sitting on a bench with Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.”

You can also use this trick for multiple types of animals for example, “Down cat, down squirrel, or down turtle.” Or even multiple animals at once “Down bunny, ferret, parrot, and fish!” This way the person you are leaving a message for will truly understand the amount of stress you are under.  If you want to go even further and up the stress level even more you can use your environment and throw some pots, pans, maybe break some glass. Use anything around you that will make a noise that will make the other person think, “Wow, that message sounded weird. But, it’s sounds like she lives in a pretty stressful environment and yet she remains so calm in person. She’s amazing and I admire her.” You can also combine all of these techniques if you want/need even more admiration. This way when the person hears a dog barking, pots flying and glass breaking, they’ll know something was up and that’s why you sounded so crazy on the phone.

Alter Your Perspective:

Realize that you have the added advantage of not talking to a real person. This is a wonderful thing. If you have something planned, and have put in your hours of practice time. you don’t need to change a thing! You don’t have to worry about unexpected questions like “How are you?” No need to think to yourself, “Oh no, I haven’t prepared an answer to this.” Realize that leaving voicemails is the ideal job for an awkward person. You’re talking to a machine. This is your time to shine.

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  1. Funny. Love this…
    going off to set up my environment love your ideas……, already have the dog. Hmmm, who should I call first. I am going to practice on Nick K.
    Eliza, I look forward to hearing more.

  2. It’s funny. I prefer to leave a message instead of talking to people for real on the phone because I feel like I can avoid an awkward pause or two when I’m leaving the message

  3. I love this! Now how to deal with leaving an amazing message when the person your leaving a message for picks up the phone during your message. Its so awkward.

  4. Girl, you know I love this column. <3

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