Voice calls shouldn’t be scary

Originally published October 2011

What’s so scary about picking up the phone and actually ringing someone? Not sending an SMS or email, tweeting or updating the world via Facebook. I’m talking good old-fashioned voice communication.

It wasn’t that long ago that ringing someone was THE way of exchanging information – business or private. The desk or home phone was an essential tool. Not so anymore. Now it’s all electronic – if you’re not online you might as well be dead.

Last week I took exception to this modern phenomenon and went back to voice. Okay, not every incident of communication was spoken. I did tweet, updated this blog and even sent emails (work and personal), but whenever it was a viable option I chose to ring.

The result: I was insanely productive and far less frustrated.

Movie scenes of people being strangled by phone cords shouldn't put you off  making a phone call.

Movie scenes of people being strangled by phone cords shouldn’t put you off making a phone call.

It’s amazing how many problems I solved before they even became problems. After at least a dozen emails the previous week to finalise a text I was writing, two minutes on the phone resolved the issue – seems we had been talking (or emailing) at cross purposes.

Likewise I received an SMS text message that got me really riled up. Instead of fuming for a couple of hours while I formulated a stinging response I called. My friend had actually mistyped and hadn’t checked before hitting send.

My one fail was ringing a colleague to get some information and being asked to make an Outlook appointment instead. The meeting however was cancelled – not once, but twice. Ironically, the alternative times suggested didn’t really appeal to me so I simply avoided them – they were sent my email!

The advantages of voice calls are obvious.

Speed – you get an answer immediately (providing someone picks up) and can clarify issues immediately rather than get caught in an endless back and forth via mail or SMS.

Clarity – you can hear if someone is being sarcastic, making a joke or just being concise and direct. The same comms in written form can lead to all kinds of confusion.

Hard to avoid – yes, the receiver can send a call straight to voice mail, but more often than note they are answered. Once on the line both parties are pretty much committed to coming to a resolution, whether arranging a meeting or agreeing on a deal.

Perhaps this list of pros is actually the problem. Voice communication is simply too immediate and straightforward. There is no way of hiding behind carefully crafted sentences; you have to make a decision on the spot or at least agree to a course of action; you open yourself up to immediate rejection or disappointment; and perhaps the worse in the business world – there’s no “paper” trail.

It’s either that or a subconscious fear caused by an unhealthy reliance on phone cord strangulation scenes to raise tension in pre-‘90s movies.

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Posted in Clear communication, Spoken communication, Workplace communication

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