Have you ever done Amway? Or something similar?
Years ago, when my wife and I were fresh out of college with a baby in diapers, we found ourselves in a group of people selling Amway (or the North American branch). The experience was what you would expect. We had no problems with any of it, but after a while decided it wasn’t for us.
I will never forget, however, one of the meetings. It was in a hotel conference room, and we were listening to a guy give a speech to encourage and recruit. One of the things he said was profoundly simple, yet incredibly powerful.
When you call someone to have what could be a significant conversation (let’s say 2 minutes or more), first ask if they have time.
Asking such a question may seem counter-intuitive, but here’s my experience employing that simple concept over the past almost 10 years: it works. It communicates I want to respect how someone else uses their time. It gives the other person a chance to say “Let me call you back in 5 minutes after I finish my current task” or “I’m busy at the moment, but you can call me back in 30 minutes.”
But most importantly, it allows the other person to be fully engaged with our conversation.
Over the years, I have found the times where I take for granted someone is free to talk and skip past the question, are usually the times when I get cut off in mid sentence and they ask to call me back in a little while.
So, for the rest of this week, when you make a phone call, I want you to start by asking the other person: do you have time to talk? See what happens. Be okay if they’re busy at the moment, the engagement you’ll get back when you finally talk will make a difference.
And at the very least, you will communicate a respect for the other person’s time, and we all win when we show respect.