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Are You Talkin’ to Me?

It’s fairly common wisdom these days that electronic communications have emboldened us. Camped out at our keyboards, anonymous behind and detached from our audiences by screens of some sort, we tend to drop the civility that might otherwise characterize our non-electronic interactions. But the proliferation of auto-dial software has put an impersonal edge on telephone communications, as well, particularly as it’s practiced by telemarketers.

Fond Remembrances

In the good old days (when were those exactly?), there was a kind of etiquette attached to telemarketing. We’ve heard rumors to the effect that fledgling telemarketers even received some rudimentary training that covered conversational niceties in a series of modules:

  • Module 1: The Greeting. This module typically included things like, “Hello” and “Hi” before moving into more advanced concepts like courtesy, proper pronunciation of the call recipient’s name, and remembering not to belch in the call recipient’s ear.
  • Module 2: The Voice. Before the advent of text-to-speech software (TTS)* the tone of the caller’s voice was an important means of establishing a first impression. Now, however, just as with political correctness, you can be bland, indistinct, and unfailingly inoffensive all the time. Most telemarketers skip this module.
  • Module 3: Delivery. Delivery refers to the pace and confidence of the caller’s speech. The caller’s ideal is to speak slowly enough to be clearly understood and to come across as self-assured without sounding like an arrogant jackass. Unless text-to-speech software is employed, most telemarketers fail this module.
  • Module 4: Respect. This is so yesterday. Like empiricism and common sense, respect is just about dead. Telemarketers now skip this module completely.
The Wave of the Future

Since the days of the innocuous prank call seem to be gone forever, we may just have to buck up to the onslaught of spammy telemarketing calls, be they from man or machine. It may help to remember the old children’s saying: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never break me.” But that’s little consolation or mitigation. And given the rapidity with which numbers can be changed and auto-dialers can auto-dial, the no-call list is just a bad joke without a punchline.

Our best advice? If push comes to shove, take the call and pull a De Niro on ’em. (WARNING! BAD WORDS!!)

*Don’t confuse text-to-speech (TTS) with text into translated speech (TITS). Don’t do it. Just don’t do it.

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