I work in social services. As you might imagine that puts me in touch with dozens of people on a daily basis. Since the end of March I have been working from home. This means that all of my interactions with other people take place over the phone. If you’d have told me five years ago that my work would involve speaking to others on the phone all day, I would have called you crazy.
I’ve never really enjoyed talking on the phone. If I am going to have a conversation with someone, I’d much prefer it to be in person. I think this is because I like to be able to read body language. Plus, most of the time it is easier to communicate in person.
Many of the people I speak with on a daily basis don’t realize just how hard it can be to hear them. For instance, I hear all kinds of background noises, such as flushing toilets, barking dogs, screaming babies, and blaring televisions. I think I might have even heard someone trying to land a helicopter in their backyard once.
It is no surprise then that I often have to have the individuals with whom I speaking repeat much of what they say. This usually elicits an impatient response that is delivered at the speed of sound. For instance, just today I was interviewing someone and was unable to hear their response. They sarcastically spelled out the word using military lingo, such as “zero,” “tango,” “charlie,” and “alpha.” I was tempted to use some military jargon of my own and pretend to send in a team of commandos to apprehend “Mr Zero Tango Charlie Alpha.” However, I refrained and continued on as politely as I could.
Perhaps, one of the things that annoys me the most about speaking to others over the phone is how they just do not listen. I can answer a call, give the person my name and where my office is located. The first question out of their mouth is “where are you located?” I feel like telling them that I am in a call center located deep beneath the Pentagon. However, again I am polite and will repeat the information that I just gave them.
Working with the public can be a challenge. However, it also has its rewards. There are people who are very thankful for the services that I provide to them. I am happy to say that I have far more positive interactions with others, than I do the negative. It gives me hope that we have not completely lost our humanity.