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  • Diana Schneidman

The new telephone party line

Back in the olden days, when my 87-year-old mother was a child, there was a telephone arrangement called the party line. (Actually, it persisted till somewhat recently in some rural areas and Wikipedia claims a few still exist.)

Multiple households shared the same phone line so only one person from among all the homes could talk at a time. Varying ring tones indicated which household should answer the call.

Telephone party lines were a tremendous nuisance, in part because each individual could listen in on all the calls and, of course, you had to compete for phone time.

There was simply too much, shall we say, “community” for anyone’s taste.

Today we have a different phone problem.

Sure, when people tell me they refuse to build their freelancing, consulting or solopro practice by phoning (called “cold calling” by Google), they uniformly give the same justification: they fear rejection.

But in practice, that fear is totally unfounded. I’ve made thousands of calls and experienced remarkably little rejection. One person curtly hung up on me. But no swearing. That’s it.

Of course, many people have not answered the phone, and with modern caller ID, it’s possible they were by the phone but decided not to pick up.

And many, many people have said “no,” but I don’t count that as rejection. Since I’ve called them without knowing if they have any upcoming assignments, it’s perfectly natural for most of those called to have no need.

So if you know what you’re going to say and you believe in your product (you do believe in your own services, don’t you?,) rejection-dread quickly fades away.

Now as I do phoning for clients, I find another problem: isolation.

Phoning can be emotionally exhausting. It feels like we are all alone facing a conversation that can be perceived as confrontational (though in practice, we are calling to offer assistance, not to engage in combat).

I’ve found a successful way to manage this uncomfortable feeling and I call it the new “party line.”

This party line doesn’t exist in reality like the old ones did. It exists in our minds.

People all over the country, around the world, are all engaged in phoning to offer our services to those who may need them. We can see ourselves as part of a community, all of us engaged in the same challenge.

And wouldn’t it be fun to share stories of our most challenging calls? Reminisce about rejection stories and turn tense situations into laughs?

I invite you to share your stories right here. Go out and try to get some rejection. This will motivate you to make calls and turn the sting of “rejection” into a shared pleasure.

As you can see above, I have experienced no rejection. So alas, I have no story to present.

Therefore I did some online research and still unearthed no rejection stories. Instead, the funny tales are about callers who did not realize that the “hold” button or “mute” button did not “take” when pressed. As a result, the individual being called heard the insults and jokes at their expense on the caller’s side of the line.


Originally posted 8-10-10

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