There are some topics that will always stir up controversy and kick off a great conversation at a dinner party. iPhone or Android? Sports, parenting, politics, and much more. Phone calls and whether they are necessary is yet another example. Try it, tell your friends you prefer texting over calls. See how they react.
In reality though, if you put aside the emotional aspect and the fact that you are used to making calls because, well, that is what you are used to doing, think about it from an objective perspective. Do phone calls really make sense in a business setting?
There Are Exceptions, But Not Many
Before we dive into the question of phone calls and their efficiency, let’s just state for the record, that there are exceptions to every rule. Family, friends, and emergencies of course, but as stated above, I am referring specifically to the business world. So no one is telling you you can’t call your son, daughter, mom, or dad.
Another exception is when the call is pre-scheduled. Sometimes, you can just get more done on the phone than you can by email. That is true and will always remain true. Having said that, if you feel that a business phone call is necessary, be respectful of people’s time and schedule the call in advance.
Reach out, by email and ask to set up a call. Put it on the calendar, and then, by all means, make the call.
However, putting those scenarios aside, there is no reason, need, or justification to pick up the phone and call someone, especially someone you don’t know in real life, and with whom you have not previously communicated. Allow me to explain why.
Don’t Be a Thief
Think about the following scenario. Michelle is in the middle of writing her analyst report on the future of transportation and you want to pick her brain about your autonomous car startup so you pick up the phone and call her.
Now, Michelle has a few options. She can rudely ignore the call, yes, that is an option, but there is something a bit obnoxious about a person letting that phone ring and simply ignoring it. Hanging up on the person is obviously even less socially acceptable. Michelle can also text back saying “I cannot talk write now. Busy.” Simple, right? Well, yea, but if you think about it, you just forced her to stop her work, her train of thought, and text you back. Why? Because you decided now is a good time to call Michelle. You decided.
That is the best case scenario. Most people, myself included, upon receiving a call from an unknown number, answer. Why? Well, you know, family. Maybe it is an emergency. Maybe it is urgent. So you answer. I always answer calls from an unknown number. 100 percent of the time, no matter what I am doing.
You quickly, in most cases, realize that this conversation is not something you have time for right now. Michelle is busy focusing on her priorities right now, and by calling her, you not only distracted her from her work, but you effectively made your priority, hers.
She has to now waste time either talking about your startup, or if she is comfortable being straight forward, explaining to you that she can’t do this right now and to message her and set up a time to talk.
You just stole Michelle’s priorities, you stole her time. You forced her to talk on your time because that is when you wanted to talk. Instead you should have texted her and asked her when you can speak on her time.
We All Multitask, Deal With It and Be Considerate
When you pick up the phone and call someone, you are not taking their work flow into account. When you text someone, they can continue their work, respond to your message when they’re ready and get right back to what they were doing. When you call someone, you are in essence declaring “Stop what you’re doing. No, totally just stop. My need is more important so stop and talk to me. Do it. Now.”
Besides the fact that we all multitask and phone calls pretty much prevent us from doing that (Well, there is the ability to use a headset and continue working on the phone while you talk, but then you are the rude one for not paying full attention to the call.), most things in the business world are better done by texting or emailing.
Take scheduling a meeting, for example. Nothing is less effective than calling someone to schedule a meeting. Email me and I will check my calendar, suggest times, and we can lock it in. Calling me to schedule a meeting is counter intuitive and counter productive.
Additionally, when you email someone about a business matter, that correspondence is easy to search and refer back to, phone calls are a recipe for misunderstandings and miscommunications.
The bottom line is, there are many instances in our lives when phone calls are necessary and acceptable, but most business communication is not one of those instances.
And if you think I am alone on this, you might want to watch this Gary Vaynerchuk talk and how the audience responds to the question “Stand up if you get annoyed when another human being calls you.”