Jacqui Frost

Verbal Diarrhoea Or Fear?

Dare to listen ...

Posted on: 29/08/2013   By: Jacqui Frost

Everybody has at least one business contact that does it. They always seem to call you after hours and you dread the blink from the answer phone. You know that you need to give yourself at least five minutes to listen to it ...

do you sometimes get so frustrated with a message you just want to press erase?

do you sometimes get so frustrated with a message you just want to press erase?

They have probably done one of two things; either they have left you enough information to fill your notebook or else they talk at the speed of light. If you are very unlucky they do both! And regardless of which they do, you know that when you call them back they will repeat all of that information before the conversation gets started. But why do they do it?

The two problems have different origins:

  • Downloading a raft of information ...

    One theory is that the absence of the "conversation factor", by which I mean another human being interjecting with answers or comments, means that they suffer from Verbal Diarrhoea. And everything they wanted to ask you or talk to you about is divulged in one go.

    The second is the fact that they knew what they wanted to talk to you about, but having failed to get you they don't want to forget anything so they give you all the information in the message so that you have got it. It neatly shifts the responsibility from them to you.

  • Talking at the speed of light ...

    I suspect that one reason for this is fear related. When you haven't prepared for an answer machine, then you can feel under the spotlight, and knowing that someone will be listening to it can bring about a spot of "Stage Fright". And so you blurt out the information as fast as possible.

    Another reason, of course, goes back to the days of little tapes. In the very early days once the tape was full your message got cut off, and as the person leaving the message you had no idea when the tape was full. So to combat this we developed the technique of speaking quickly to ensure the information was passed across.

So how do you combat it? Well, we all know that in an ideal world every caller would speak slowly, clearly, repeat their telephone number and not leave a long complicated message. But how can we tell them to do that without making our message long and convoluted. Can you imagine recording the following?

"Thank you for calling The Office Genie. The office is now closed, if you would like to leave a brief message then please speak after the tone. In order for your message to be easily understood and noted down we would appreciate it greatly if you would speak slowly. Also could you make sure you enunciate well as we would hate to mis-hear you? When leaving your telephone number, please repeat it so that we don't have to listen to your whole message again in order to take it down. Thank you again for calling, we will of course return your call during our office hours which are Monday to Friday 9am to 5.30pm excluding public and Bank Holidays".

I'd get bored recording it and so I suspect that callers would get bored listening to it and hang up. But you can influence your callers in subtle ways. By making your outgoing message short, simple and by speaking slowly and clearly you will be encouraging your callers to do the same.

I do know people who actually leave off the "brief message" from their outgoing message, asking people to simply leave their name and number and someone will call them back. In that way they signal to their clients that the important information is their name and number and that is all that is needed to get a call back.

But regardless of your outgoing message, remember that most people will ring and expect to get a person and so will be thrown by getting an answering machine. Listen to yourself when you next have to leave a message when you were hoping to talk to someone. I suspect you will find yourself getting a little flustered and babbling a little.

Remember though, if in doubt leave your name, your telephone number (twice) and simply ask them to call you back. If it's urgent suggest they call you before a certain time.

Are you feeling nervous about leaving messages now?

Until next time ...


More about Jacqui Frost ...


I had a successful 20-year career as an office manager and personal assistant; however, my job was no longer focused on the customers and became all about the numbers. My customer-focused background began when I was 12 in my father's independent carpet showroom. I had a spell with Marks & Spencer before I moved into office-based jobs. I have worked as a training administrator, a PA and PA/office manager in a variety of industries from manufacturing to the IT education sector.

Meanwhile, my husband Ian, a successful Northampton based Master Decorator and owner of Rainbow Frost, was losing out on work due to missed phone calls. When he was busy, callers were getting his voicemail but weren't leaving messages. I knew how to fix that problem!

I quit my job and took on Ian as the first client of The Office Genie in November 2005. Word quickly spread with the second client coming on board just one week later. The majority of our clients since have come to us through word of mouth recommendations and networking referrals. Over the years, I have become well connected in Northampton and Milton Keynes.

Outside of work I enjoy swimming, roller skating, the theatre and my cats and dogs!


+44 (0) 1604 529170



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