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Just call me

18 June 2013

Email, texting, tweeting, linking in and facebooking – none of this is really ‘talking’. In the business world, we can pride ourselves that we’re more connected than ever. Yet the underlying message we often send to people through these media is, ‘I don’t really want to talk to you, but…’

“The telephone, which interrupts the most serious conversations and cuts short the most weighty observations, has a romance of its own,” (Virginia Woolf The Common Reader).
There was a time when the telephone itself was considered a disruptive mode of communication – an alien interruption of the simple practice of face-to-face discussion. Yet, from the very beginning, people realised there was an art to talking on the phone. It was, after all, the first instant ‘virtual’ form of communication. You couldn’t see the person you were communicating with, there were no visual clues to decode. So, you had to work a little harder.

Today, you can see who you’re talking to on the phone – yet many people find the idea of Skype off-putting. So, we prefer the less troublesome forms of communication – email, Twitter, Linked In, each with its protocol on how to behave online. Consultants now make a living out of this. Nobody ever thought about teaching business people how to make the most of the telephone, unless it was for direct-selling. And so much of that goes on today in our call-centre culture, that we’re wary of the telephone ringing.

Technology brings us closer to other people?! Yes, of course it does and we’re thankful for that. But there are now so many barriers between people as a result of technology. Think about it… Remember the time when you used to be able to just call people? But no more. It’s considered annoying to pick up the phone and call someone without a prior appointment. Too friendly, too intrusive. So now? Send an e-mail to set up an appointment for the phone call. Usually about six or seven e-mails.

We use e-mail to avoid conflict and feeling uncomfortable. Or to overcome shyness, inferiority complexes, doubts, apprehensions, all manner of other psychological and emotional problems. We use e-mail to overcome our fear of selling – to make sure we’re never caught off guard or put on the spot. But, you know, e-mail messages can be misinterpreted. Most people are not as good at writing as they are at speaking. There are so many blogs about being more sensitive to the way we write e-mails – use emoticons to make the tone plain, re-read messages before you send them. Well, this is the post which advises you to just pick up the bloody phone!

The telephone is a fantastic communication tool for business people. Try:

  • calling someone with whom you have an issue to discuss
  • doing it without an appointment
  • just calling them up and having a conversation, with no agenda
  • picking your phone up when it rings, without looking at the number
  • opening yourself up to the possibility a phone call offers

Discover this remarkable device called the telephone. Go on, just do it.