What Your Telephone Message Says About You

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What Your Telephone Message Says About You
by Connie H. Deutsch

The early telephone answering machines recorded the messages reel- to-reel, like a movie theater and played back the same way. You only had to pray that the tape didn't break or get corrupted midway through your caller's message. The sound was terrible, often distorted, and usually crackly. The most redeeming feature was that you and your caller could talk as long as you wanted. Today's machines, if they're still around, limit your speaking time to a few minutes.

I said this unlimited amount of speaking time was their most redeeming feature but in retrospect, it also had a downside. I had two clients, a man and a woman, who always left messages of twenty minutes or more in duration. In the playback mode, my machine first had you listen to your outgoing message and since it didn't allow you to back up a wee bit to take down a specific piece of information that you missed or couldn't decipher, every time you had to play it back to retrieve that vital piece of information, you got to hear your outgoing message over and over again. Not a wonderful thing when you're very busy and time is of the essence, but when you have nothing more exciting to do at the moment, it could be the high spot of your day.

I don't know if it was the excitement of getting my very first answering machine or if it was nervousness at hearing my voice being played back to me, or just the fact that I didn't know what to say. It was probably a combination of all of the above. What I certainly didn't realize was that my message was going to tell the listener a lot about me.

Most people record their outgoing message without realizing what it says about them. In the old days, waaay long before voice mail, when telephone answering machines first came into being, I was one of those people who didn't realize what my message said about me.

My very first outgoing message played upon the image of a happy dog wagging his tail and I recorded it in a perky voice. It said: "Hi, there. I hate to brag but this machine is so intelligent it thinks it's human. When it hears your voice, it becomes so excited that its recording tape goes into action. It has such a wonderful memory that just by a flip of a switch it repeats your whole conversation word for word. Where else can you get such an enthusiastic response? Try it . . . you'll like it. At the sound of the tone, leave your name, telephone number, and message, and be recorded for posterity."

I got a lot of comments about my message. One day, I answered my phone and a man said, "Oh, I didn't want to speak to you; I just wanted to hear your outgoing message." I offered to hang up and let him hear the message but he declined. Another call I received was from a newspaper reporter wanting to do a story on my answering machine's message. This time I declined. And still, another incident was when my friend and I were waiting in line to be seated at a restaurant and I was telling her about the comments I was getting on my outgoing message. A man who was standing behind me tapped me on the shoulder and asked me to tell him what my message said.

Those were the early days when you could have fun with your answering machine. It was so new that most people didn't have them and so it was a novelty to hear an electronic device taking down your message. Nowadays, it's serious business and it says a lot about you. It especially says a lot about the business you are representing.

Not too long ago, I called a company during business hours and I got a recorded message that said, "Please leave your name and number and I'll call you back at my earliest convenience." My first reaction was, "WHAT??" So I dialed the long distance number a second time to be sure I was hearing the message correctly. I couldn't imagine a company's outgoing message saying that they would return my call at "their" earliest convenience, so I called the number a third time. And, yes, I had heard it correctly the first and second times; it did say that my call would be returned at their earliest convenience.

We live in such a high tech society connected, almost as quickly as the speed of light, to a global market, but our social behavior hasn't caught up with our technology. Any day now, I expect to see a cartoon of an ape wearing a headset, talking into a cell phone, eating a banana held in one hand, and texting another ape with the other hand, while the caller is put on hold.

Connie H. Deutsch is an internationally known business consultant and personal advisor who has a keen understanding of human nature and is a natural problem-solver. She is known throughout the world for helping clients find solutions to problems that are often complex and systemic in nature and part of a corporation's culture or an individual's pattern of behavior.

Connie has hosted her own weekly radio show, been a weekly guest on a morning radio show, done guest spots on radio shows around the country, and appeared as a guest on a cable television show. Connie wrote a weekly newspaper Advice Column for sixteen years and has been invited to speak at local colleges and given lectures around the country. She also wrote the scripts for a weekly financial show on cable television.

Connie is the author of the book, "Whispers of the Soul" and is the co-author of an E-book, "Getting Rich While the Rest of the World Falls Apart" which is being offered as a free download on her website. She has also written and produced two CDs on Meditation and Relationships and has done coaching on customer service and employee relationships. Her website is: http://www.conniehdeutsch.com

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