Telephone. Tell a phone. There are times when I get the feeling I’m talking to a phone instead of over the phone. Incoming telemarketing calls don’t allow for meaningful connections. And by all reports, cold calls are another example of missed opportunities. Yet there’s no question that you can build connection with people over the phone.

Some people are better at connecting through the phone than others. When some people call, you can’t wait for the call to be done. Yet when you talk with others, time just disappears!

How do you use the phone to your advantage, and connect with people that you can’t see, and who can’t see you? You do this by matching some key vocal characteristics of the person you’re talking with. You don’t have to use all of these with everyone. Instead, a little goes a long way. In the art of persuasion, reducing differences makes the difference.

Match voice volume
Some people talk louder than others, others speak more quietly. Loud talkers may be hard of hearing, and quiet talkers may not know how hard they are to hear. But once you hear a person’s voice volume, talk at a similar volume to create that sense of common ground so necessary for a connection to take place. Remember, you don’t have to be as loud or quiet as the person you’re talking with.

My Dad is hard of hearing. During my recent time with him, I had to learn to speak at a much louder volume than I normally do, both in person, and over the phone when I called him while out running errands for him. Yet after less than a day of this, it became completely normal. Human beings are remarkably adaptable like that. The key to blending voice volume is to first notice it, then match it. In this way, the message comes through loud and clear, even when talking quietly.

Match talking speed
Some people talk faster than others, others talk slower. Fast talkers may get frustrated with slow talkers; slow talkers may feel insulted or untrusting with fast talkers. Talk at a similar pace as the person on the other end of the call, you’ll find it easier to get and maintain that positive connection! This obvious characteristic provides a powerful opportunity to reduce differences and send the signal, “I’m with you.”

Match speaking rhythm
You’ll find it easier to maintain confidence and speak with ease by hearing and matching the rhythm of the person you are talking with. Some people speak with in flowing sentences, one idea leading naturally to the next; others speak with gaps and hesitation. Flowing speech may sound arrogant and out of reach to the person who doesn’t have that way with words. Gaps and hesitation sound like a lack of confidence to the person who speaks with ease.

But what if you have no sense of rhythm? That’s the beauty of matching. The person you’re talking with is your guide. Do your best, and you’ll connect.

Match your energy
If a person has a subdued energy, dial yours down. If the person has a lot of energy, amp yours up! If the person sounds down, taking your mood down a notch or two may improve their mood. If a person sounds happy, a similar signal from you creates a better connection than dissonance and dissimilarity.

Match vocal variety
Just as variety is the spice of life, vocal variety can be a spicy mix of highs and lows that creates interest. The most interesting speakers, the most interesting people to talk with, use vocal variety to their benefit, to get and hold interest in what they’re saying.

If making a connection is your concern, use a similar variety of tones. Some people talk in a consistently high voice tone. Others in a consistently low voice tone. Others are somewhere in the middle. Some people practically sing their words. They have access to the full range of their tonal variety and use it to speak. Others speak in a monotone, or a narrow range that leaves out the highs and lows.

Match sentence length and word choices
I've observed that there are two extremes of verbal constructions: Too short, and running on. Let’s say that another way. With sentences, two extremes. Long. Short.

Short and to the point communications are great in email. They’re generally easier to track than long ones, and they allow one to get to the point and stick to it. But people who get too much to the point may find that they’ve failed to give their listener the detail they need to make sense of what they’re hearing.

Which brings me to run-on sentences where, if you are listening to someone who uses them and, if you’re waiting to find out where they are going with it and, even though it isn’t obvious you hang in there because you suspect that any moment now they will make the point and, that’s when you find yourself noticing all the connectors of fragments of thought into what sounds like an ending about to arrive then that’s when it hits you that the sentence is running on but the point has run away and you have no clue where they were going with this nor do you care anymore and, yet they keep adding in connectors as if somehow that ties it all together which, really, it does in the sense that it ties your brain up into knots and you’re not going to resolve anything by listening further…..

Yet when it comes to making and keeping connection, it helps to talk using a similar sentence length and word choices. You don’t have to go to extremes. But some people do have a little to say, and others a lot to say. Some use big words and long sentences, some use short words and short sentences. Hear it, and match it.

For some, it’s not what they say, it’s the words they use to say it. A person using a big vocabulary will appreciate you responding in kind. A person with a limited vocabulary may have trouble understanding complex words and ideas.

Likewise, some people use technical language and jargon, others use colloquialisms. Notice this and respond in kind, and you will make better connections over the phone and in general.

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Rick Kirschner has helped millions improve their communication skills and have better relationships and careers. He is co-author of the classic, Dealing with People You Can’t Stand, and co-creator of the all-time bestselling audio and video program, How to Deal with Difficult People. His new book How to Click With People (July 2011) reveals the secret to better relationships in business and in life. For a free one-hour audio on Difficult People, visit: