Legal Business Development: If It's Urgent... Pick Up The Phone!

by Paula Black

"It was urgent! Didn't you get the email?" We have all gotten this kind of email. When we do we panic... which one of these 243 emails I have received in the past 24 hours is it? We sort and find it. It wasn't marked urgent, but then again even if it had been marked urgent, it would have been one of 83 and most of those aren't really urgent, anyway. So, what could the sender have done to get your attention?

"You won't believe this. There's a technological marvel that, instead of forcing you to communicate with others in writing, actually allows you to hear other people's voices and words — you can even hear the tone and volume of their voices! And wonder of wonders, they can hear you! Across any distance! It's incredible! Not many people use the device today, but it's truly in a class by itself for productive communication."

Dan Pallotta wrote this in an article for the Harvard Business Review entitled... Just Call Someone Already. A bit sarcastic? Yes, and he goes on to say...

"...The way people shun the telephone these days is getting ridiculous.

You used to be able to just call people. You didn't have to be on someone's calendar to have a phone conversation. The telephone was an important and valuable domain of communication, both for casual, friendly chats and for professional exchanges of ideas and information. But no more. It's considered annoying — lame, even — to pick up the phone and call someone without a prior appointment. It's too friendly. Too intrusive. If you did, you'd be considered a professional misfit. So instead, you send an e-mail to set up an appointment for the phone call. About six or seven e-mails, actually. More words pass back and forth in the setting up of the call than are required for the communication for which the call itself is intended. And if each of you has an assistant, all this multiplies.

Much worse than the inefficiency of using e-mail to set up phone calls are the missed opportunities and unnecessary misunderstandings that come when we use e-mail instead of phone calls. That happens far more often than is prudent. We use e-mail to avoid conflict. We use it to avoid feeling uncomfortable. To overcome shyness, inferiority complexes, doubts, apprehensions, and all manner of other psychological and emotional problems. In business, we use it to overcome our fear of selling. To make sure we're never caught off guard or put on the spot. Because it's just too much trouble to get up and walk two cubes over to ask a question in person. And we have convinced ourselves that this is all more advanced, more expedient, more productive.

But to the degree to which e-mail allows us to avoid authentic communication or persuasive communication — and robs us of the ability to get better at either or both — there's nothing efficient or productive about it. I won't go on about how e-mail messages can be misinterpreted — we've all read way too many blog posts about that. But even those posts assume a context in which the telephone doesn't exist. They preach about being more sensitive to the way we write the e-mails, using emoticons to make tone plain, or rereading messages before we send them to scan for anything that could be taken amiss. Those posts never advise us to just pick up the phone and call the person. Doing so would eliminate the possibility of misconstrued text for sure, but it's never in the e-mail tips lists.

If you want to be innovative today, if you want to take a risk, if you want to exercise your courage, try calling someone with whom you have an issue to discuss. Do it without an appointment. Just call them up and have a conversation. And when your phone rings, pick it up. Open yourself up to the possibility a phone call offers. Discover this remarkable device called the telephone. It will give you a serious competitive advantage."

Pick up the phone! Have a clear, meaningful... relationship building conversation. Communicate!


Written by:

Paula Black

Paula Black & Associates on:

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