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The Power of Connecting

Below are resources to strengthen our skill is connecting with clients using a phone.

During Covid, and moving forward post-Covid, keeping isolated clients connected will be an important aspect of their wellness. There are many reasons that a phone call is a useful way to reach out and support someone with a life-limiting illness.

A significant aspect to supporting a client is the gift of conversation, and in particular, drawing out their  story. Bearing witness to their storytelling validates and affirms their life journey. Whether by phone or in person, over a meal, a cup of coffee, or a walk, conversation eases loneliness and creates space for the soul to expand.

Consider the readings and videos below as you engage your Hospice work, as well as your personal village, through the phone lines (or microwave towers).

In Praise of Phone Calls

by Sarah Larson

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During Covid, and indeed, when we return to non-Covid life, supporting clients by phone may be a practical necessity.

Below, author Sarah Larson describes a few dynamics to consider before picking up your phone to make a call.

  • First, find the best equipment you can: ideally, a real phone. A landline is optimal, or a cell phone with decent audio, held right up to your ear.
  • Avoid the diffuse echoey sadness of the speakerphone, the vulnerable voice bouncing around an open room or, God forbid, an open car.


  • Phone calls mean: No screens, no juddering technology or buffering, no contending with the distracting horror of your own disembodied face. Just voice: mind meeting soul meeting timbre.
  • Don’t have a TV on (or any other background noises if possible).
  • Don’t have a laptop in front of you.
  • Sit in a favorite chair and look at your plants and your books. They are beautiful.
  • Look out the window, the trees outside. Listen to your friend.
  • Find a good phone, focus, and be together. On the phone, you’re not performing for a camera, or observing your friend and their house. You’re not typing. You can get to essentials with a different, more human part of your brain

How to Speak Effectively Over the Phone

Effective communications over the phone requires clarity of speech, knowing what you want to convey, and a willingness to engage with someone using good listening skills and prompts. This video provides some of the basics required to effectively communicate during a phone call.

10 Ways to Have a Better Conversation

When your job hinges on how well you talk to people, you learn a lot about how to have conversations -- and that most of us don't converse very well. Celeste Headlee has worked as a radio host for decades, and she knows the ingredients of a great conversation: Honesty, brevity, clarity and a healthy amount of listening. In this insightful talk, she shares 10 useful rules for having better conversations. "Go out, talk to people, listen to people," she says. "And, most importantly, be prepared to be amazed."

Phone Conversation Exercise

This exercise invites self-reflection on communicating by phone.

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Phone support is, in great part, about holding space for the exploration of life stories, or in other words, legacy work. By way of example, we have a small collection of stories from some of our grief clients for your perusal.


Looking for ways to engage in conversation over the phone (or perhaps in person as well)? Below are conversation starters, broken into themes.

Collecting Childhood Stories

Where were you born?

  • Country?
  • Province, town/city
  • In a hospital?

What is your birthday?

  • Do you know anything about local or world events on the day your birth?

What did you weigh?

Do you know anything about the delivery?

Were you a healthy child?

Who gave you your name? Why that name?

  • Did you have a nickname? If so, how did you get it?

What did you look like as a child?

Were you ever in an accident as a child?

  • If so, were you hospitalized?
  • What do you recall about it?

What was your favorite pastime as a child?

  • What games did you play?
  • What was your favorite toy?

Describe your childhood home. How did you feel about it?

Describe your family car when you were a child.

Recall something silly you did as a child

What were Sundays like as a child?

  • Did you go to a religious service?
  • Did you visit family? Grandparents?
  • Did you have regular family dinners?

• Where did you mother or father go to work?

  • What were their duties/responsibilities?

Describe your father

Describe your mother

What were your favorite childhood treats?

  • How much did it cost?

What did you do at bedtime – favorite story or prayers?

  • Who tucked you in?

Recall a story regarding learning about:

  • Santa Claus
  • Tooth fairy
  • Easter bunny
  • God
  • Angels

Share about being involved in Scouts, cubs, brownies or other clubs?

Recall a radio program, TV show, or movie from your childhood?

Did you learn to play a musical instrument?

  • If so, what?
  • What do you remember about playing?

What did you want to do/be when you grew up?

  • Did you do this? Why or why not?
  • If yes, did you enjoy it? Why or why not?

What scent or sound immediately takes you back to childhood?

  • What feeling does it evoke?

What is the name of a favorite animal companion?

  • What kind of animal was it?
  • Describe this animal? What happened to her/him?

What extracurricular activities were you involved in during high school?

What were your family finances like growing up? How did that affect you?

What meaningful advice did you get from an adult when you were growing up?

Collecting Stories of Romance

Describe a memorable valentine you received

  • Who gave it to you?
  • How old were you? How old were they?

Describe your first kiss

  • Were you dating/courting?
  • Did you marry this person?

Was a dating curfew imposed on you by your parents/guardians?

  • What time was imposed?
  • Tell about a time when you came home late

What did you do on dates?

Who was your first love?

  • Did you marry them?

How old were you when you married (if married)?

  • Do you think you were mature enough to have made such a commitment?
  • Were all of your parents in support of your relationship?
  • Where were you married? Why there?
  • How long did you know each other before you were married?
  • How did you celebrate your honeymoon?

Did you ever have a love that you did not pursue or that did not come to be?

  • What became of that person?
  • Why did the relationship not unfold as you wished it to?

Collecting Stories About Married/partnered Life (skip if never married/partnered)

Describe your wedding

  • Where did it take place?
  • What is your anniversary?
  • What was the weather like that day?
  • Was it a traditional service or something else?
  • How many people attended?
  • Who was in your wedding party?
  • Tell a story about something that stands out from that day
  • How did you feel prior to the ceremony?
  • Was it what you wanted/expected it to be?

Describe your relationship to your in-laws

Where did you first live?

  • Describe your first residence
  • How long did you live there?
  • Where did you live the longest?

What was your household’s source of income over the years?

What hardships, if any, did you experience during your early years together?

What did you discover to be the biggest adjustment to living as a couple?

Recall something humorous about your partner/spouse?

  • Was/is a sense of humor important to your relationship?

Describe a memorable gift that you gave your partner.

  • Was it well-received?

Describe a memorable gift that they gave you.

  • Was it well-received?

What were/are your mate’s best qualities?

What would your mate say are your best qualities?

At what point in your relationship were you the happiest?


Collecting Stories About Life and Death

What do you think happens when you die?

What are your thoughts/feelings about dying?

Death of life partner/spouse:

  • When did they die?
  • What was the cause?
  • Were you with them at the time of their death? Describe that experience
  • Where are they buried? Why there?
  • Did you have a memorial/funeral/wake? If so, describe this?

Other deaths:

Describe a friend who has died

  • When did they die?
  • What was the cause?
  • Did you attend a funeral/memorial/wake?
  • How did you meet them?
  • What made your friendship valuable to you?
  • What did you like about them?
  • Describe a special memory about them
  • Describe a family member (not spouse) who died
  • What was your relationship to the person who died?
  • What was their name?
  • When did they die?
  • What was the cause?
  • Share about the funeral/memorial/wake
  • Describe your relationship to them

Random Questions

Recall a surprise visit from family or friends

  • Who was it?
  • How far did they come to see you?

What was your favorite subject to study as a child? As a teen?

Describe a book that you read that really stays with you or is especially meaningful for you.

What similarities do you see between your children and grandchildren?

Looking back, what do you wish that you had done in childhood or early adulthood?

What do you wish you had done differently in your parenting?

Describe your mother in her best dress.

Describe a parent in their working clothes.

What similarities to your father/mother do you see in yourself or in your children?

What do you like to serve when company comes over?

  • For appetizers?
  • For dessert?
  • For main course?

What family traditions do you hope will be continued by your children and grandchildren?

What is one of the most difficult choices you have had to make?

  • Would you make the same choice again if you could go back as you are now?

Share a memory of a family reunion.

What is your favorite season of the year and why?

If you went to post-secondary school where did you go?

  • What did you study?
  • What certification/diploma/degree did you achieve?
  • Did you work in this field? If so, did you enjoy it?

What values did you instill in your children?

Do you think that boys or girls were easier to raise? Why?

What did it feel like when your last child left home?

Exemplary Telephone Etiquette

If You’re Using a Cell Phone, Use It with Care 

  • First, be aware of the great divide between cell phone and land line
  • If you’re calling someone over 40, I strongly recommend that you use a land line, because people over 40 have this strange attachment to good sound
  • But if you must place your call using a cell phone,
    • Be in a place where the quality of your call is good, and background noise is at a minimum,
    • Carefully hold your phone so that your voice is being picked up by the internal mike, and
    • Slow down so that it’s easier for the other person to hear

Follow Basic Telephone Etiquette

When the other person picks up the phone, you should always go through these steps, in this order:

  • Unless they pick up the phone with “Hey, Jesse!” always introduce yourself by name. (“Ivan? This is Jesse.”) Don’t assume that they know who you are, and don’t jump in without greeting them.
  • Once you’ve introduced yourself, ask if now is a good time to talk. If they say no, don’t take that personally; just arrange to call them back later. If they say that they’ve “just got a minute,” respect that and keep your conversation short.
  • Even in a short exchange, though, don’t forget the ritual small talk. A question or two about how they’re doing will smooth the way for whatever comes next – and be sure to listen to their answers, so that you can follow up next time!
  • After that opening exchange, state what you’re calling about
  • Then follow the same kind of back-and-forth that you’d use in a face-to-face conversation: Make sure the other person gets to speak, but don’t leave them holding the conversational ball.

Notice If the Other Person’s Situation Changes

When you’re talking to someone on the phone, their situation can change abruptly. And, unlike with an email that can be put aside, the two of you will have to ride that wave.


People appreciate it when you show sensitivity to their needs, so along with the phone tips above, keep your ears open for things that might indicate a change of plans:


  • If you’re calling during the business day, and you hear another phone ring on their end, ask them if they need to answer
  • If you’re calling them at home and you hear kids yelling, or a dog barking, or someone else coming into the room, ask them if they need to go.
  • If your phone call has to be interrupted, ask if the other person would like you to call them right back, or would prefer to pick up the conversation at some convenient future
  • Whatever they want to do, agree! Don’t try to keep someone on the phone if their kids are fighting or their office fire alarm has gone


Treat them with the same consideration you’d show during an in-person meeting.

Don’t Forget Your Attitude of Gratitude 

As busy as most people are today, their willingness to talk to you by phone is a real compliment. So, let them know you appreciate it, by saying, “Thanks for taking the time to talk,” or “It’s been great to speak with you.”

You don’t need to send a personal note, as you would for a job interview. But if any business has been done, send a follow-up email that states (again!) what was decided, and how much you appreciate their time.

Good Phone Etiquette is a Way to Stand Out

As crazy as things are, and as busy as people are these days, nothing stands out like competency and curtesy.

If you can deliver both, you will come across as a rare and invaluable person.

All of these phone tips really boil down to one thing: Learn how to communicate courteously by phone!

The people you’re talking to will be grateful.


From: For a Conversation that Builds a (Real) Relationship, Use These Phone Tips

By Jezra Kaye, Accessed Jan 2021 https://speakupforsuccess.com/public-speaking-phone-tips/

Congratulations (8)

You have completed Module 8: Support Via Phone Conversations.

This completes our online volunteer training.

Thank you for your patience and endurance in learning with us.