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How to Handle Awkward Telephone Calls with Ease and Grace

A telephone call from a friend,

A friend calling you and saying nothing may not be new, but these types of calls raise the question: Have telephone calls and conversations become strange lately? Or maybe the convenience of text messaging is changing our communication behaviors. Sometimes, people call without a clear purpose or say much of anything, putting you in an uncomfortable position to ask, "Was there something specific you wanted to discuss?"

As a result, you may come across as impolite and impatient. The other person might pick up on your frustration and respond with a passive-aggressive remark like, "I didn't know I needed a reason to call my friend?" The tension between both parties becomes noticeable, and bidding farewell seems to escalate it. This situation forces you to justify your decision to end the call and suggests that you both talk later.

Consider this scenario: someone calls you, and you exchange greetings, but the conversation stalls. You ask an open-ended question to break the silence, only to receive brief, uninterested responses. For example, how are things going? And the response is one word or a one-liner.

As the recipient of the call, you are puzzled about how to proceed as the caller remains passive. So, to move things along, you ask small talk questions or recall familiar experiences to build a conversation. However, the questions feel like an interrogation and less like a conversation. To diffuse the awkwardness, you bid farewell, only to be met with, "So, you don't want to talk to me?

The key is to remain patient and allow the conversation to evolve while the other party gathers their thoughts and composure. Listen actively, and if you feel compelled to ask a question, ask what versus why questions. Be mindful of what is said and not how it is said. When a conversation is about what is said, it becomes less about defensive listening and more about the content of the conversation.

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