Wednesday, June 19, 2013

More on Signals: Reviving "Over"

My most popular blog post to date is last September's on "Extra Signals."  In it, I provided examples of the benefits of "extra" signals like the color coding for the "Send" button in gmail.  I still muse over these daily applications of the science of consequences, so here's a not-entirely-whimsical suggestion as a follow-up.

Ever get slightly annoyed when a phone conversation turns into an awkward tussle over taking turns?--where you and your phoner jump in at the same time, or, avoiding the unpleasantness of an interruption, you let the phoner drone on about something far too long?  The visual cues in a one-on-one are lacking. 

Clear and efficient communication is especially critical for airplane-control tower conversations, among others.  We all know from movies and TV that "over" is a standardized signal that the speaker is ready to become a listener. How about bringing this into our ordinary phone conversations?

Speaker 1: Yadda, yadda, yadda . . .  And by the way, I wonder how your daughter's been doing with that.  Over.

Speaker 2:  Well, she yadda, yadda, yadda . . .

If anyone tries this, let me know how it goes!  Over and out.


  1. This post made me laugh out loud, truly! You hit the nail on the head- this is a HUGE problem for me! Sometimes, when I hang up, I will yell out loud to myself "Dang it- why am I so awkward?!"

    I don't know if I can convince every person I talk to on the phone to adopt this- but I know for sure I will start using this with family and my partner!

    Sometimes I would also like an acknowledgement of what it was that I just said. Were you really listening?

    Me: Okay, I'll meet you at 8 am. Over. 10-4? You: 10-4, over and out.

    Great! Now I know you heard me!

    Loved this post- thanks Susan!

  2. I'm glad it resonated, Valerie!--and great point about getting an acknowledgement. That's also critical for air traffic control, of course. Good luck with reviving "over"!