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Korrespondenz auf Englisch - Unterschiedliche Anrufer-Typen: So reagieren Sie souverän

Schlagwörter: Anrufen, Englisch, Lernen, Korrespondenz auf Englisch

What you say is not always what they hear

When we talk on the phone we assume that our business partners hear what we say. But it isn’t always as simple as that. When we listen, we make assumptions based on our own experience. We interpret what we hear in ways that are totally different to what the caller intended. For example, here are some examples of what a secretary might say when answering her boss’s phone. Look at what the caller might be thinking:

What the secretary says: He’s not in the office yet.
What the caller might think: What’s wrong with him? Can’t he get in by 9 o’clock?

What the secretary says: He’s in a meeting.
What the caller might think: I bet that’s just an excuse! Maybe he just doesn’t want to speak with me.

What the secretary says: He’s still at lunch.
What the caller might think: 2.30 and still at lunch! I wish I had a job like that.

What the secretary says: I’m not sure when he’ll be back.
What the caller might think: Does anybody know what’s going on in that organization?

The caller is making assumptions based on previous negative experience. But the secretary is not helping the situation. She needs to respond in a more positive and helpful way.

In these situations she needs to do three things:

    1. Give the information in a neutral, business-like way
    2. Give a time frame
    3. Give the caller options

How does this work in practice? Let’s take the first example from above. Instead of just saying He’s not in the office yet, the secretary might say Mr Keane has an early meeting but he’s expected back by 10.30. Would you like to leave a message or shall I ask him to call you?

This sounds much more professional and much more helpful. The caller is impressed by a competent secretary, knows the times involved, and can decide what course of action suits him best. Let’s see how it can work with the other situations:

I’m afraid Mr Keane is in a meeting until 12.30 and then has a lunch appointment. May I ask him to call you this afternoon, or maybe I can help you?

Mr Keane has a client meeting. We expect him back by 3 o’clock. Shall I take a message or is there someone else you would like to speak to?

Mr Keane will be out of the office most of the morning. Would you like him to call you as soon as he gets back or will you call back later?

Now let’s look at some of the language that the secretary uses.

He’s expected back … or We expect him back… are useful phrases in this situation. They are not promises. This means that the times are flexible and may be changed.

By 3 o’clock means any time up to 3 o’clock at the latest.

If Mr Keane is meeting someone, you can say He’s in a meeting; he’s in conference; he has an appointment; or even describe the type of meeting — he’s in a client meeting; he’s meeting a customer; he’s in a staff meeting at the moment.

But if you don’t want to go into detail, you could also say I’m afraid Mr Keane is not available.


If you’ve already asked for the caller’s name, it’s best to say I’m afraid Mr Keane is not picking up. If you say he’s in a meeting after having asked for the caller’s name, it sounds like you’re filtering callers by name. This is because He’s in a meeting has become a euphemism for He doesn’t want to speak with you. If Mr Keane really is in a meeting, you can say this before asking for the caller’s name without making a bad impression.

When you give the caller two options, you can use polite language such as Would you like…? Shall I….? May I….?

OK, now you try. Compare your answers with the models at the end of the article. Here are two situations.

    1. Imagine you are answering the phone for Mr Keane. You don’t know where he is at the moment, but you know that he has a meeting in the office between 2 and 3 o’clock this afternoon. What could you say?

    2. Mr Keane is in an internal meeting and you are not sure if he will be free today at all. What do you say?

Now check your answers. Did you sound business-like? Did you give a time frame? Did you give two options? If you did — well done! If you didn’t, try again!


    1. Mr Keane is in conference until after 3 o’clock this afternoon. May I take a message, or will you call back later?

    2. I’m afraid Mr Keane is not available this afternoon. Would you like to call tomorrow morning, or maybe I can help you?

Understanding the personality and style of a caller

‘It wasn’t what she said — it was the way she said it!’
You often hear colleagues complain about the way a telephone caller has spoken to them. And the complaint is more about the caller’s style of speaking rather than the content of the conversation. People prefer to communicate in different ways and this can sometimes create irritation and conflict.

If you listen carefully to callers, you can quickly tell what kind of person they are. You need to listen to both their style of speaking and to the words they use.


    Type 1. These callers speak slowly and deliberately. They stop to think over what you have said, so there are often quite long silences. And they don’t give as many listening signals as other people. Sometimes you even wonder if they have hung up on you!

      These people use phrases like:

      Let’s look at the facts.
      We need to figure it out logically.
      Speaking objectively.
      Firstly… secondly…..thirdly.

    From their style and choice of words you can hear that these callers are analytical in their approach and want to base decisions on hard facts and figures. They are the kind of people who confirm a telephone call with an email.

    Type 2. These callers speak quickly in a business-like tone. They sometimes finish your sentences off for you and can sound impatient or abrupt. Calls are usually short and to the point.

      They use phrases like:

      Let’s look ahead.
      This is urgent.
      We’re making good progress.
      >i>We need clear goals.

    As you can hear, these callers want quick, accurate communication that helps them achieve their business goals. They like using the phone because they can get an immediate response.

    Type 3. These callers speak calmly and listen carefully. They use clear listening signals — repeating key words, saying things like, I see, Right , Good , and using sounds like Uhhu or Hmmhmm. Their tone is warm and friendly.

      They say things like:

      I get a feeling that…
      My intuition tells me that…
      How do you feel about this?
      I understand your situation.

    These people are warm and empathetic. They like dealing with other people. They can read between the lines of a conversation and are quick to uncover the emotional state of the other person. They prefer face-to-face conversations where they can see their speaking partner.

    Type 4. These callers speak excitedly with a great sense of urgency or enthusiasm. You often feel they are talking about several things at once or that they change the subject frequently. They usually do most of the talking and sound a bit bored if you try to take over the call.

      You will hear them use phrases like:

      This going to be great.
      You’ll love this idea.
      This is an exciting project.

    From this you can hear that they are enthusiastic and optimistic. They want to be active and to feel excited by what’s happening. The telephone allows them to act instantly on their ideas and to do more than one thing at a time.

There is an old saying in English — ‘All the world is strange, except for you and me. And even you’re a little strange!’

In other words we are all different. But we do indicate to each other how we prefer to be treated. The more we listen carefully to each other, the more we can adjust our style of communicating to help build rapport and better understanding. By just taking a short step towards mirroring our telephone partner’s way of speaking we can make them feel more comfortable and therefore easier to handle.

How to deal with each caller type

Type 1: Be well-prepared if you call them. Arm yourself with facts and figures. Don’t speak emotionally or try to hurry them along. Give them time and space. Keep social conversation to a minimum and if you don’t know the answer to one of their questions promise to ‘research’ the answer and get back to them later.

Type 2: Keep the call short and to the point. Tell them how you can help them attain their goals and how you can help them be even more efficient in their use of time or resources. You don’t need to make small talk unless they do.

Type 3: Even business calls are opportunities for socializing and networking for Type 3 people. Take your time and be friendly. Talk about the weather, mutual friends, and acquaintances or health. Ask them to help you. Tell them how you are feeling and ask them how they are feeling too. Explain that your ideas can improve teamwork or work atmosphere.

Type 4: Speak enthusiastically about what you want. Be upbeat and lively. Take up several issues in one call and try to generate a sense of excitement about your ideas. Praise their ideas and only give negative feedback by first saying the good things. End any call by saying how much you enjoyed the stimulating conversation!

Schlagwörter: Anrufen, Englisch, Lernen, Korrespondenz auf Englisch

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