Saturday, February 10, 2007

Learning How to Talk to People

(Scene: Inside radio station on-air studio)
Me: Good morning! W--- studio. Would you like to talk to (host)?
Caller: Yes.
Me: What would you like to talk about today?
Caller: I'd like to tell (host) about ToastMasters.
Me: One moment.

I made a note of the caller's topic, passed note to host, and put caller on hold.

One of my daily duties is to be the producer for our morning talk show host.
In a nutshell, I screen calls, play his bumper music into and out of commercial breaks, and I watch the clock so we can be on and off air precisely when network programming requires.
I love this part of my job.
I. Am. In. Control.
I control everything except what the host says.

My boss has made it clear that I also have the unquestionable authority to disconnect any caller who:
- is rude,
- swears,
- insults the host
- does anything inappropriate for airing

I always have my finger on the 7-second-delay button, which I've had the pleasure of hitting twice in my radio career. Both times while producing this host's show.

(Tim Allen Tool Time grunting)

Host has been very grateful to have me there. With me in charge, he can focus on his callers and his thoughts without distraction.

This particular day, the phone lines were full once I'd put the "ToastMaster lady" on hold, so I had nothing to do until the host was finished with his current call and was ready for the next.

And I reminisced about the one and only experience I've had with ToastMasters.
(Disclaimer: My experience with one small local chapter does not reflect the attitudes and policies of ToastMasters Int. as a whole. If you wish to post a glowing review of your positive experience with TM for the good of other readers, please feel free to do so. However, for me, that ship sailed 15 years ago.)

Fifteen years ago, the husband and I had been invited to a ToastMasters meeting in hopes that we would give their group some free publicity on our radio show.
We did.
We went.
However, we were not fully prepared for the night we were in for.
All we knew of the group was that they help folks with public speaking. Help with things like getting over nervousness, practicing speaking in front of their small group...
At least, this was the vague impression I had the night I showed up for their meeting.
When everyone around the table introduced themselves, they invited the husband and me to stand up and introduce ourselves as well.
We did.
We sat.
I believe a small trophy was placed in front of the person who was voted to have given the best self-introduction.
This person was not me.
Oh no.
*I* was voted the worst introduction.
Because I thought we were introducing ourselves.
I didn't know it was a competition.
I had no idea we would be graded on it.

And then...
They all proceeded to critique my introduction, to the point where one person had been counting my "um"s.
Thank you very much.

Needless to say, I did not enjoy my experience with ToastMasters.
I felt I'd been ambushed.

And it was this memory I pondered as I sat in the studio waiting for a cue from the host that we would either take a commercial break or the next caller.


I picked up the phone line the ToastMaster lady was on and asked her off-air, "Ma'am, is ToastMasters having an event that you'd like to promote? What about ToastMasters do you want to discuss?"

She answered, "I want to recommend it to your host."

Uh huh.

She went on, "I think he'd benefit from a few meetings. It might help him stop stuttering."

Uh huh.

"I see," I said. "That would be something I'd rather you suggested off air."

"But don't you think he has a problem?"

"I do. It has been addressed and brought to his attention..."

"And don't you think this would benefit ALL his listeners?"

"Ma'am, I am not going to put you on the air."

"Why not?"

"It's more appropriate to talk to him privately..."


"I am not going to argue with you. I am not going let you embarass him on the air."

"He's already embarassing..."

*Click* I disconnected her.

By this time, I was shaking.
The nerve of some people thoroughly astounds me some days.
Because she really thought she was going to do him a favor!?

Then again, perhaps I could have reasoned with her a little better. Maybe I had been a little too harsh or abrupt?

The phone lit up again.

"W--- studio. Would you like..."
"I would LIKE your name and the name of your superior!"
Let's do this.

"MY name is Roses. That's R-O-S-E-S. My superior's name..."

"This is Roses?" Sweet as honey, she suddenly was.

*I* was not. "Yes. And my boss's name is..."

"I listen to you every day! I love your show!" I could almost hear her eyelashes fluttering.

*impatient sigh* "My boss's name is (spelled out clearly for her). You can reach him at (phone number plain and clear)."

"I listen to you every afternoon!"

"That's nice. You can call my boss right now. He's in his office."

"Okay. I'll do that," she purred. "And Roses?"


"It's really rude of you to hang up on people." *click*

I stared at the phone, dumbfounded as the dial tone buzzed at me.
Then I tried to strangle the handset.
Sometimes people suck.

The first opportunity I had to leave the studio, I walked into my boss's office to tell him to expect a phone call, but he'd already gotten it.

"I'm sorry I didn't get to warn you ahead of time," I offered.

"That's alright," he told me. "And you were perfectly right in not letting her on the air. That's no place for that kind of suggestion.  And," he added, "she was not a nice person."

You don't realize how important it is to have someone back you up on something until it really comes down to it.
I really like working for my boss.
And I tell him that often.


Richmond said...

Phones should come with a "tazer" option - just to better express the message, so to speak... ;)

Good for you - mean people suck...

Roses said...

Richmond: What I want is Caller ID so I can call people back and give them what-for. Stupid anonymity. If people had to give their name before speaking their mind, they'd think twice and keep their mouths shut.

(she said while typing on her blog with the fake name...)

Lemon Stand said...

Wow! I've heard of Toastmasters but I sure didn't know that they had the power to bless you with the ability to voice your opinions without tact, common sense, and regardless of who you might embarass.

Holy cripes!

As for the boss, time to draw a big red circle on your calendar around Boss' Day! (Oct 16th, btw. I looked it up for you)

Roses said...

Lemon Stand: Again, I don't wish to cast aspersions on the entire ToastMasters idea. But, yeah, makes you wonder what some people think they're allowed to say in public after attending a meeting or two.

And, I do let my boss know I appreciate him. I poke my head in his office once in a while for no reason and say, "In case I haven't told you lately, I really like working for you."
That, and I tend to insult the Big Boss once in a while which also makes his day. :)

Tink said...

Caller ids are fine if they calling party doesn't block their number.... But you made the right decision.

jaj said...

I love Richmond's idea.

I thought ToastMasters was a brand of toaster ovens. I need to get out more.

Roses said...

P.S. I had also told my boss that I probably should not have hung up on the woman... but he'd interrupted me and told me that, yes, I should have.
He told me that I have a job to do, and that job does not include wasting time talking sense into someone who simply will not get it.

I ~love~ working for my boss!

Anonymous said...

Yep, I got ambushed too. I think the saying goes, "Those who can't, teach."

Roses said...

But Darin, don't you teach something?

(smirk smirk)

HapKiDo said...

I want YOUR boss!!! Mine's about as useless as a box of boxes...