Thursday, May 22, 2008

Tour-Guide Barbie

What is it about a phone conversation that makes a person's voice inflection change so dramatically? We have all seen it before -- your mom is pissed about something, she's yelling at you as she dials a number, and as soon as the other party answers the phone, her entire demeanor changes. Suddenly, she's June Cleaver, sweet and kind and straight out of Stepford. "Nancy! How ARE you, darling?" she'll coo into the receiver, all the while shooting looks of death across the room. "Cocktails at six? Marvelous!"

I do the same thing, though [adopt new mannerisms over the phone, that is, not schedule cocktails with a woman named Nancy]. Now that I am a receptionist by trade, I spend a lot of time on the phone. Answering a call goes a little something like this:

Phone rings. Young woman at desk places hand on receiver, however does not pick up until second ring at which point caller ID tells her to expect. Once that information is known, the young woman involuntarily flips her hair over her shoulder, lifts the phone to her ear, and speaks in a lower, lilting, honeyed voice:

"Good morning *Real Estate Office Name,* this is Carly, how may I help you?"

The thing is, it's more than just the voice; it's the inflection. It goes down {GOOD MORNING, Real Estate Office Name}, then up {this Is CARLY}, then flat {How May I Help You?} That probably doesn't make any sense typed out like that...okay, just think about Toy Story 2, which is arguably one of the most fabulous movies of its era. Revolutionary. Redefined the concept of cartoons. But I digress.

One of the best characters in that movie is Tour-Guide Barbie. She waltzes through her script and her inflection is her dance partner. It's the typical airline stewardess, the roller coaster operator...the receptionist. It's Tour-Guide Barbie's voice that I inevitably emulate.

And that's just it -- it's inevitable!! I don't even mean to do it! As I start the newer, more involved task of scheduling showings and coordinating listings, and I talk to selling agents more, I quickly learn that my vocal patterns are mimicking theirs. Slick and oily, words flow out of their mouths the way that water comes out of hose, gushing a flow of cold liquid that looks great until you taste it, and then the flavor of metal is left on your tongue. The only way to stop the madness from spewing is to twist the hose into knots, so the water gets all backed up and bulges. That's what working with real estate agents [one in particular] is like.

Don't get me wrong -- the majority of agents that I have interacted with are great people. But their candor and their mannerisms are slightly unnerving, especially when you watch them switch it on and off whenever they want.

This is what concerns me so much about my own phone habits. They're just silly...I mean, it is not a big deal, just slightly ridiculous that I answer the phone in a Scarlett Johansson voice and speak in a way that is completely foreign to me. The ironic part is that it is natural -- I don't necessarily try to do it; it just sort of happens. Maybe it comes from years of working with the public, and somehow, after so much customer service, I have adopted a sickly sweet, ingratiating tone to deal with the people who annoy me most. Maybe it's a mask, and by acting like a darling, helpful receptionist I am more apt to be a darling, helpful receptionist.

I don't know why I turn into Tour-Guide Barbie when I am dealing with our clients, but honestly? It's kind of fun. I don't hate it. But if it gets to the point where I have a Jekyll and Hyde thing going on, somebody slap me.

And on that note, thank you so much for reading!! You have a great day, now! Mhmm, buh-bye!

1 comment:

Pekinducks said...

So, I took your "advice" and read this blog. It is funny. However, I reject the idea that my voice is slick or oily.
P.S. Hose water is absolutely delicious. I love it. If it were sold in bottles, I would buy it and it wouldn't take some slick voiced, smooth-talking hose oil salesman to sell it to me.
P.P.S I believe that P__ O'_____ would give you a raise, but he wouldn't say yes right off the bat. Caveat: I am an army of one in the army of P__ O'_____ fans and may be overestimating his generosity.

As ever,
The Right Honorable
Lord B.J-C.