Why You Still Need To Talk On The Phone

The Wall Street Journal recently ran a piece on the decline of telephone usage among young professionals.  Their thesis (which actually has some data to back it up) is that young professionals approach the phone as a tool of last resort, behind email, chat, and texting:

“Stephanie Shih, 27, says phone calls are an
interruption. The brand marketing manager at Paperless Post, a New
York-based company that designs online and paper stationery, doesn’t
have a work phone. Nor do the majority of her co-workers. The company
says that not having individual phone lines in open-plan areas protects
people from unwanted calls, which can interrupt conversations.

Besides, says Ms. Shih, phones seem “outdated.” She takes scheduled
work calls once or twice a week. “Even my dentist’s office texts me
because they know phone calls can be burdensome,” she wrote in an email.

Kevin Castle, a 32-year-old chief technology officer at Technossus, an
Irvine, Calif.-based business software company, says calling someone without emailing first can make it seem
as though you’re prioritizing your needs over theirs.
Technossus’s staff relies mainly on email to communicate, which helps
bridge the time difference between the company’s offices in the U.S. and
India, he says. He uses Microsoft Lync for instant messaging and video
conferencing. Phone calls are his last resort.”

I’ll be the first to admit that I find the constant telemarketing calls annoying.  But I never resent a legitimate call from a member of my team–or a customer.

Properly used, the telephone can do a lot that email and IM cannot.  The current craze for terse written communication (thanks, Twitter!) favors transactional, rather than relational conversations.  Without the constant feedback of the open phone line, texters focus on quickly conveying their own position, rather than listening to their conversation partner.

A good phone call broadens and deepens a relationship in a way that chart cannot; part of this is the simple fact that you can tell when the person on the other line is actually giving you their full attention.

If you care about building strong relationships, and understand the other party, pick up the phone.  Just don’t call during dinner.

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