U is for Uncomfortable Utterances

work-at-homeI spent much of my corporate career working remotely from my immediate supervisor. My comfort with this arrangement definitely helps my freelance business. I’ve had multiple projects where I never met the client face-to-face.

But there is one phenomenon you must learn to listen for when you aren’t in the room. I call it the Dead Phone Stare.

I coined this phrase while working for  a charming gentleman who not only was remote, he was in sales. Marketing was not his thing. I think he understood about every other phrase I uttered. The good news? He pretty much left me to my own devices. The bad news? When I needed his approval for something, I practically had to hire a translator to explain what and why.

Thus, the Dead Phone Stare – the uncomfortable silence on the end of the line when the person you are speaking to is thinking, “WTH?” Often, I’d rephrase my thought and get a repeat of same. I was speaking into a huge communication void.

I have been careful in my consulting practice to avoid the Dead Phone Stare. In fact, I probably overcompensate. Now the person on the other end of the line is probably thinking, “Enough explanation. Get on with it!”

But not so much in my personal life. I recently stumped not one, but two representatives from my healthcare company by asking them how to file the reimbursement claim for the down payment on my child’s orthodontics. It was so silent on the other end even the crickets were struck dumb.

This post is part of the April Blogging from A to Z Challenge. See who else is Blogging from A to Z

Read the series

Read the work-at-home personnel manual

9 thoughts on “U is for Uncomfortable Utterances

  1. Sarah,

    Had some time this morning and read/re-read all of your A-Z blogging challenge blogs. I am enjoying the exercise of creativite writing within the constraints of the challenge. And again, I find the tone of bemused exasperation so funny and hits very close to home (get it?).

    Look forward to V,W,X,Y,Z.

    Take care, hey to the fodder (your charming children) and the rodents.



  2. My favorite thousand-yard stares come from nonprofit admin folks, who really aren’t entirely sure the NEED to market, because after all, shouldn’t “all of this money” be used to help the people they are SUPPOSED to help? They have a point, but unless they make a splash with donors and community members, and do it in an engaging, effective way, and tell their STORIES, there will be no nonprofit. It’s dicey for me, and it’s a very, very customized vocab that I use when talking with them. I am always careful to talk about the mission, and how marketing actually supports the mission they have declared to the world.

    The irony is that once they realize they DO need to market what they do — to have a brand ID and a personality that actually sticks with non-stakeholders who might one day be donors — they decide they don’t really need The Writer, because they think that is what I do, and that, exclusively. All they need is the Designer (who I am not. At all.) Ah, well. On to the next nonprofit!


    1. That was what I thought. Kid #3 in braces and I still have no idea how to do this. I seem to get some random reimbursement each time that is completely unpredictable and different from the last. I may know more about this than anyone at this point.


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