Stop People from Interrupting

When people incessantly call or leave voicemail, stop answering.

Stever Robbins
4-minute read
Episode #40

Today's topic is dealing with voicemail and phone callers who interrupt you, derail your focus, and clog your inbox. The quick and dirty tip is to hold your ground firmly, tell the truth, and blame me.

Robin from Colorado wrote in:

My client calls with every question, distracting me. He won't e-mail or leave voicemail. He just calls back. I really do have to answer, or make a good argument to everyone that I *don’t* have to answer it. What do I do?

Peter writes:

How do I persuade people to not leave me voicemail at all? I hate it. Short messages are garbled, long ones ramble. And it's just another inbox that needs to be emptied.

Robin and Peter, I feel your pain. You're both laboring under a powerful, but unquestioned belief. I was a kid, my parents made me act "good" by saying Santa Claus didn't bring presents to bad little boys. I believed. The night I discovered Santa Claus didn't exist, it took my thesis advisor hours to calm me down.

Your version of Santa Claus is even more evil. You believe you have to respond or, at least, justify yourself. You think, "If I don't respond, they'll think I'm a jerk." Or, "They'll fire me." I go straight for the endgame: "If I don't respond, they'll despise me. They'll burn down my home, steal my stuffed tiger, kidnap me, and leave me in a gutter covered with envelopes, to die a slow death by paper cut."

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We know your callers won't do as you ask. Peter's callers won't leave good voicemail, and Robin, your client flat-out refuses to use e-mail. And in both cases, why should they? They do what they want and you accommodate them. Yes, you complain, but you give them what they want and they don't have to change.

And then, you feel like you owe them something? If I were a psychologist (which I'm not), I might use words like "abandonment issues," or "co-dependent," or search your background for playground traumas involving boxball, jungle gyms, and jars of vaseline. I'm not, so I'll just make up a diagnosis. (Dr. Phil, eat your heart out.)

You. Are. Enabling. Them.


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.