Before caller ID the phone would ring and you would just answer the phone with no clue who was calling. True story. “Miller residence, may I ask who is calling please?” It really happened.
Later, when answering machines were invented, some people would screen their calls by letting the machine pick up first, see if it was someone they wanted to talk to starting to leave a message, and then pick up (or not).
Once caller ID came around you could decide if you wanted to answer or just let a call roll to the machine. “Oh, him? Let the machine get it.”
Later came voicemail – an automatic version of the answering machine that didn’t require a separate unit. With cell phones and caller IDs and voicemail combined, we entered a whole new era of screening.
These are all just filters that have evolved over time to keep certain things out and let other things in. Every mode of communication, figurative and literal, has these filters. If we want our message to get through, if we want to establish contact, we have to first understand why the person on the opposite end wants to hear from us. Then we can understand what filters might be getting in the way or keeping us out.
Mom (or pick your own hypothetical equivalent) will always pick up. A stranger who has never heard of our products/services/brilliance may not. There are a million miles of space between those two types of relationships and yet we can make close connections in moments or slowly over years. It all starts with one point of contact, so how to make a good one?
The incredibly simple and obvious key: always start with something worth saying. Always have something the person we are reaching out to will want to hear or perceive a benefit of hearing about from us. There will always be a new filter to screen out some of the unwanted distractions. But, there will always be some information that can get through and help us in some way we want to be helped.
Before we make the call, think about the message and why it’s wanted. When we get it right, the filters will let it pass. If we have a good message but it’s not getting through, we can look at the filters and refine our approach. It’s a game as old as time.