Don’t email, call

Focusing on efficiency frequently guides me into the trap of emailing rather than calling when I want to know or get something.

Email is seductive.  It seems so much faster – it can take 10 seconds to dash off and send a quick email, whereas a call inevitably takes longer, and you don’t necessarily get through the first time you call either.   And email is less intrusive on the other person as well – being asynchronous, they can respond at their convenience.

There are a few reasons to call, though.  First, it does 10x more to create and build personal rapport and relationship – and while we can’t build meaningful relationships with literally everyone we interact with, I suspect most of us err on the side of being too transactional too often.  The richness of vocal tones are lost over email as well – much less info is communicated with our conversation partner.

Second, a call is 10x more likely to lead to an open conversation which touches on unanticipated topics and teaches you things you didn’t know you didn’t know.  I had a great example of this recently where I had a conversation with a client head of investor relations regarding the analyst reaction to their latest earnings call, and unexpectedly came away with a number of interesting insights and ideas for our ongoing strategy engagement with the same client.

Of course, in person is even better than by phone.  So if you are co-located with a colleague or client, walk down the hall and poke your head in.  “Walking the halls” is well-recognized as something most of us should do more of.

One final thought – you don’t need to have an excuse to call.  As a mentor of mine once told me, “NOT calling is transactional.”  He meant that if you wait to call until you want something from someone, then it’s about that ask rather than the relationship.  So, pick up the phone.


One thought on “Don’t email, call

  1. Very interesting.

    I remember in the pre-email universe I spent hours on the phone (I was also a teenaged girl, not to feed gender bias). For some reason I dread it now. My husband constantly pushes me to pick up the phone to do anything, and I find it thoroughly inconvenient and uncomfortable – why? It’s like I’ve lost all my live conversation skills.

    My husband was in the insanely-long-voicemail generation of consulting (when they still gave out StarTacs instead of BlackBerrys) where I would watch him try to leave a perfectly-crafted voicemail with several false starts over the course of half an hour! I, on the other hand, am absolutely squarely in the electronic communication era and find, actually, it took me much longer to craft succinct, strategic verbal communication skills than my husband.

    There is something to be said for email communication drawing rigid boundaries in a conversation, and not allowing topics to flow spontaneously nor organically. I hadn’t thought of that, and I appreciate this insight. So as a proud P, I will push myself to embrace more phone communication!


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