A couple years ago I was involved in a training course in downtown Toronto and had to be at a particular hotel for the event both Saturday and Sunday slightly before 9am. Saturday morning I left my home late and decided to take a taxi, to ensure I was not late for the event (first impression management 101 – don’t be late!). I got a very nice cab driver, originally from Ethiopia, and we had a pleasant talk along the way. Like a good businessman he asked if I was going to need a taxi for Sunday’s trip downtown, to which I replied yes. So we agreed that he would pick me up in front of my home at 8:30am, and that he would call me so that I would know when he had arrived. I gave him my business card which has my address and phone numbers (including cell) on it and we left with a handshake, smile and a solid plan.
The next morning it was 8:40 am and I still had not received his call. Not at my residence and not on my cell. I decided to go to the street to see if he was there. He was not. So I had no choice but to walk a bit to the main intersection and catch a new cab. I did so, and as I was getting into a new cab at 8:43am I thought I saw out of the corner of my eye the cab from yesterday, whizzing down my street, I suppose looking for me.
I got in my new cab and arrived on time downtown. All the time I wondered why he didn’t just simply call me, at home or on my cell, just to tell me he was on his way, or that he would be 5 minutes late. I would have waited for an extra five, even though he should have been prompt, as he knew I had a deadline.
The fact is many people have a fear of calling. Whether you are an immigrant or visitor not sure of your English proficiency, or a native speaker who somehow feels embarrassed, many of us do not call when we should.
I have talked to many ESL students and immigrants here in Toronto over the years, and it is really interesting to ask them a simple question – have you ever ordered a pizza by yourself? The answer is quite often no. Interesting when we know they have the English ability and vocabulary, but they lack confidence in their communications.
In previous communication courses I ran we dealt with the issue of how and when to call and how to make it appropriate for the situation. Hopefully when we recognize that a business (or personal) relationship can be damaged or even lost over a simple phone call or lack thereof, it will help us get over that feeling that it could be embarrassing, and make us realize that a quick phone call, like telling someone you will be late, can really go a long way in showing respect and empathy for others. This improves how others view you and in turn, how they treat you. But the big picture lesson here I believe is to grow past your comfort zone and focus on the end goal, the prize, the business relationship or cash for that matter, rather than being held back by an inner voice that erodes new confidence.
All the best,