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Are unscheduled phone calls rude?

I’m not a big fan of phone calls.  I certainly use it as needed, but it’s gradually becoming less and less often.  Google Voice helps quite a bit, since it rids me of the pain of voicemail, but phone calls still often (but not always) seem to be a waste of time.  For example, a 20 minute phone call with a client usually could have been resolved with a 2 minute email exchange.

Two articles have come out in the last week that support that view.

Mike Masnick at TechDirt wrote an entry titled “Phone Calls Are So Last Century“.  Among other things, he argues that:

In the past, when most people didn’t have mobile phones, such random calls were more common. And you might assume that our greater access to telephony would mean greater desire to make calls. Now, obviously, a big part of the reason for making calls has been replaced by (mostly text-based) alternative means, such as email, text messaging and social networks. But, I’d argue that the greater access also makes us more wary in general. For example, I was thinking about calling a friend recently, who I hadn’t spoken to in a while, but realized it would be his mobile phone, and what if he was out with his wife and kids, and I didn’t want to interrupt that.

The other article is from Pamela Paul in the New York Times, with “Don’t Call Me, I Won’t Call You”.  Her main point is that phone calls are becoming rare enough that they can almost be alarming:

It’s at the point where when the phone does ring — and it’s not my mom, dad, husband or baby sitter — my first thought is: “What’s happened? What’s wrong?” My second thought is: “Isn’t it weird to just call like that? Out of the blue? With no e-mailed warning?”

For me, a big part of it is the lack of a paper trail.  When I’m on a phone call, I usually need to take notes (often directly into Evernote) so I can remember exactly what was said: “edit xx file”, “invoice for $xx”, etc.  Communicating via email, sms, Facebook, etc, generates an automatic record of what was said.

What do you think? I’m not quite at that point yet (I still dial and receive “random” calls quite often), but it certainly seems to be heading that direction.  Where do you stand?

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Mickey Mellen

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  1. I still say phone. Email and text can be fast and convenient but life and business should still be about relationships. Email relationships aren’t authentic and genuine. Phone = personal. Email = I’ve got too many things to do to call you. Outside of simple communication, emails can also be hard to decipher and may actually take LONGER to get the same result. Text conversations outside of just general stupid banter between friends is what really drive me crazy. Call me!! Don’t ask me 10 questions via text!! Good post Mickey.

    • Good point about too many emails taking too long — just yesterday I went back and forth and back and forth with a client, when a simple phone call would have made things much easier (but they didn’t answer).

      Google Voice makes texting much easier too (I can do it from my PC), but I agree that it’s a pain to carry on a conversation via text.

  2. I think it depends on the situation. As Kevin mentions, the phone call is better for cultivating relationships and email/text is better for quick communication. Phone calls should be used at the start of a business relationship to build rapport and trust. Emails/texts can be used after the relationship is established to speed along the communication process.


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