Silly Questions and Polite Phone Calls
What? Me Worry?
Worrying is like a rocking chair: it gives you something to do, but it doesn't get you anywhere.
Your head spins with questions. You must get answers. You haven't had much experience dealing with officials of any sort.
"I don't want to ASK. It seems like a silly question."
Well, the truth is this: If you don't ASK, you'll never know the answer. How silly is that? Who needs to lie awake at night, sweating over a "what if?" situation, when all you need to do is pick up the phone and ASK.
Knowing whom to ask is the Big Question.
The answer from the correct person may be simple and may set your mind at ease.
You can ask a friend or neighbour for advice but you may end up with a load of hooey and more confusion than you already have.
Tactic: Before placing a call, try to anticipate and avoid interruptions. Feed the dog, have someone attend to the children, turn off the loud music. Consider going to a neighbour's quiet home to have a better working environment. "Please may I use your phone to make an important call?"
Think of this phone call as an appointment. Be prepared to do business. Put on your polite and friendly hat, dial the most appropriate number you have, and wait for the elevator music or a message machine. You may get through on the first call; jump up and down for joy—gently.
Is it the message machine? S-l-o-w-ly and clearly say, "Please call Dolly [pause] at 123-4567 [pause] regarding my Dad, Major H. Flarp. [pause] Thank you." The pauses will allow your contact person to write down the information.
Have The File handy in case you must produce I.D. numbers or other details.
Have a pen and a piece of paper close at hand.
No one will ignore or mistreat you if you follow a few little guidelines for polite questioning.
When you make contact, introduce yourself, describe your position (daughter, son, etc.), and ASK your question.
Your end of the conversation can go something like this:
"Hello. My name is Dolly. I'm calling on behalf of my father, Major H.Flarp. I have a question. I hope you can help me."
Wait for the other-ender to find Dad on the computer screen. Be prepared to wait while your call may be directed to the correct person.
"My question is related to ... [whatever topic]. Will you please help me through this one?"
It might be in regards to completing a form. It might be regarding a medical issue. It might have something to do with finances or legalities. Don't worry about the topic.
Date and time of call: _____________________________________ Agency: ____________________________________________________ Contact person: Please tell me your name again so that I may write it down. Please spell it for me: ____________________________________ Phone number, including extension number: __________________ Notes: _____________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________
Usually you will find a helpful person with a smile in his/her voice. Try not to let someone with a sensitivity challenge get the upper hand. Try to avoid feeling intimidated. It's your Dad and you need an answer. Say, "I'm fumbling in the dark. I don't know if I have asked for the correct person."
Suppose the speaker goes too quickly and you can't keep up. Simply say, "Please repeat that. I'm making a note."
Your question is answered. Say, "Thank you for your time and assistance. You have been helpful."
Friendly. Polite. Asking for help.
File the Notes
Now you have an answer to a question. What to do?
One basic rule that efficient business people follow is this:
Handle a piece of paper ONCE.
Translated, this means that they read the paper, follow up with whatever is required, then they file it. Over and out. To do this efficiently, you must make the time available. You'll save valuable hours by following this routine.