The top 10 telephone mistakes that can make you sound impolite

Natürlich bemühen Sie sich, am Telefon immer höflich und professionell zu klingen. Aber wie kommen Sie bei Ihrem Gesprächpartner an? Oft sind es nur Kleinigkeiten die bewirken, dass Sie schroff, unfreundlich oder unprofessionell klingen.

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Many Brits and Americans complain that Germans are impolite when they use the phone. Why is this? On the one hand, you are probably nervous when you have to speak English, and that can make you sound impolite. But there is more to it than that. If you want to sound really polite, you have to practice being less direct. In addition, you may have to work on your accent. A bad accent can make you difficult to understand, and can also come across as impolite.

Mistake number 1: Telling people they have to wait

You all know that phrase 'Please hold the line'. Well, to be honest it's not very friendly, especially if you don’t say why the other person should hold the line.

What to do
Instead of telling people they have to wait, ask them if they mind waiting. Do this by using conditionals (would, could, etc.)

Could I ask you to hold the line for a moment? I'll put you through.

Mistake number 2: Not giving enough information

You know how annoying it can be when someone wants to connect you with another department and the line goes dead? You have to redial the number and go through the whole procedure again.

What to do
Give the caller the extension number of the person you are going to connect them with. Then, if something should go wrong, they can redial directly and don't have to go past you again.

Margaret Mills in Sales will be able to help you. I'll transfer you, but let me give you the number first in case the transfer fails. It's extension 69.

Mistake number 3: Using 'want'

A mistake a lot of people make is to use the word 'want' when they need to speak to someone. For example, they say: I want to talk to Sam Jones.

What to do
Use could, or I'd like to or may I or is … there, please?

Could you put me through to Sam Jones, please?

Mistake number 4: Using 'must'

Another impolite word is 'must'. Try to avoid it altogether. For example, don't say We must arrange another date for the meeting.

What to do
English-speakers will say 'must' in a roundabout way.

We need to arrange another date for the meeting.

Mistake number 5: Putting please in the wrong place

Of course you should say 'please' a lot when you are talking on the phone, but be careful not to make it sound like a command. For instance, you can say Please call me back this afternoon. But you can make it much politer than that.

What to do
Ask in a roundabout way. You may think this is exaggerated, but it will sound natural to a native speaker.

Could I ask you to call me back this afternoon?

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