5 The telephone: a help or hindrance?
Why could the use of the telephone as a communication tool make defusing conflict more challenging, compared with face-to-face interaction?
The use of the telephone makes immediate communication possible, which is often a real bonus. However, it also makes reading the non-verbal communication almost impossible (apart from intonation) and minimal encouragers become less evident. In the neighbour dialogue (Clip 2), sighs, shoulder shrugs, eye contact and facial expressions all provide added information for each neighbour to communicate and to signal that it was the other person’s opportunity to respond. This is why pausing, conversation turn-taking and summarising are perhaps even more important than usual when the telephone is used.
In addition, since the telephone is so immediate, hedging language along the lines of ‘Is it a convenient time to talk right now?’ is often an appropriate way to begin a conversation.