be curious“Hello, Jane Perdue speaking.” (I had a boss early in my career who required us to answer our phones this way. The habit stuck.)

“Is Jane Perdue there?”

This is she. How may I help you?”

“I want to speak with Jane Perdue.” (Tone of voice is annoyed and demanding)

“This is she. How can I help?”

“You’re Jane Perdue? Really? I didn’t hear you say Jane Perdue.”

“Really and truly! You have Jane Perdue on the line. And you are…?”

“Are you sure you’re Jane Perdue?” (Tone = no way, quit joking)

“I’m absolutely sure. How can I help you?”

“Well, if you’re really Jane Perdue…”

** big sigh **

Power of first impressions

First impressions are so important and so tricky.

Important on the sending end because you want to make a good one. Tricky on the receiving end because you don’t want to be judgmental and wrong. Which I nearly was.

My first impression of the caller wasn’t favorable—low listening skills, low receptivity, a little combative, may be even a little haughty.  Would it have been easy to conclude that my initial assessment was accurate? Yes, absolutely. Would it have been right? Not in the slightest.

Do what you gotta do to be curious

And that’s…

Challenge assumptions.

Did I have enough information to draw a viable conclusion?  Not even close. What came across as haughtiness was incredulity that I had answered my own phone.

Gather more data points.

One brief encounter may not be indicative of a pattern of behavior. The caller admitted to not listening at the beginning.  His expectation was that someone would answer my phone for me, so he had tuned out.

Look for context.

Do you know enough about the background, environment, setting, situation, etc. to have a full picture of the facts? The caller’s context was that he would have to go through an assistant to reach me. I expected him to be fully present in the moment.

Are you making the “facts” fit the story?

I loved the boss who taught me this way of answering the phone as a way of gathering insights into how well someone listened. Yet his rationale imprinted a distinct point of view in my mind about a caller’s listening abilities which is something I now must need to be perpetually mindful of.

What other counsel would you offer for being a curious leader instead of a judgmental one?

Image source before quote:  Gratisography