The Voicemail Experiment

Personal voicemail greetings usually sound something like this:

"Hi, you've reached Barry - please leave a message and I'll get back to you as soon as I can."

After being inspired by Lewis Howes, I decided to try a little experiment with my own voicemail.  Instead of the run-of-the-mill standard greeting that most people make use of, I wanted to find a way to maybe add some life into the greeting - to see if I could change someone's mood or simply make someone's day a little better.

So I recorded my own voicemail greeting as follows:

"Hi you've reached Barry Morisse.  Before you leave your message, tell me one small thing that you're grateful for in your life, and I'll get back to you as soon as I can."


The Rationale

From a practical side, the nature of the course I'm doing at the moment renders most phone calls unanswerable (is that a word?) because I am in a lecture hall for the majority of the day and thus my voicemail has to handle the brunt of my telephonic communications.  So by tweaking the greeting, I would have the opportunity for a significant experiment - due to the number of phone calls that would form part of the sample.

From a spiritual side, I have been reading a lot recently about the conscious practice of gratitude and how that has improved the lives of those writers.  The thesis goes that in the hustle-bustle of an ever growing world, it is easy to get lost in the stress and anxiety that comes along with it.  By pausing and being grateful for the small things in your life - it helps to put things in perspective and helps you avoid taking the blessings in your life for granted.  You can find more about this here, here and here.

So, this voicemail experiment was a way to share this practice.  Anyone who reached my voicemail was encouraged to acknowledge one thing that they were grateful in their life - before leaving their message for me.  All in the hope of reminding someone, who is caught up in the rush of their day, to pause... And take cognizance of the fact that there are small things to be grateful for everywhere.

Now, how was the experiment received:


The Results

Over the 2 month experiment, I found that there were 3 types of people who left messages:

  1. The person who would be energized by the idea and would go into great detail about what they were grateful for, before leaving their message.
  2. The person who would be rendered speechless by the request.  Ten seconds of silence, um's and aah's would elapse before a quick mention of the first thing that came to mind, before getting straight to business with the message.
  3. The person who would ignore the request completely, and just hurdle into the message.  Or alternatively, would simply hang up and hope to catch me again at a later stage.

(Which person would you be?  Let me know in the comments)

In general, most people were slightly put-off by the request - and I can understand why.  The typical voicemail greeting is so standardized these days that we don't even really listen anymore - it's simply a matter of waiting for the beep.  So by changing up the request, I threw a cat amongst the pigeons and thoroughly upset the apple cart.  Naturally, this was met with resistance.

However, if I was able to remind just one person to be grateful for the small blessings in their life - then the experiment was a success.


I have changed my voicemail back now, but instead - if you're reading this, leave a short message in the comments below and tell me what small thing in your life that you are grateful for.

For one, I'm grateful that you made it down to the bottom of this post :)