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Pick Up The Phone!

Cell phones are everywhere. It would be easier to list the places where they can't be found. Notice that I didn't say "Shouldn't be used" but more on that later. At the same time it's my impression that fewer and fewer people are relying on the phone part of the device to communicate. Email and texts have, sadly, taken the place of important conversations in many situations, much to our collective detriment. No, it's not the fault of the 20 - somethings, or 30 - somethings,.... all of us are involved to one degree or the other.

I'm as guilty as the next person but here are a couple ideas that I am using to overcome this trend:

  1. Resist the urge to play email tag-you're-it. Pick up the phone, regardless of whether you received an email from someone else or not. If you listen carefully, you can hear the inflection in their voice, what they are emphasizing and what they aren't. If you get their voicemail, leave them this message: "Hi, Joe, I got your email. I'm calling to follow up because I'd really like to talk in more detail about your comments so please call me back." If Joe doesn't call you back the same day, call him again the next day.

  2. Before you call, review what you want to accomplish on the phone - large or small. Plan out for your own benefit how you are going to react to each one of the answer possibilities.

  3. Don't anticipate the other person's response no matter how long you've known them. Once you go down the "this call is going to take 30 minutes minimum" path then sending an email seems so much more productive and less frustrating. If this person is a customer or employer or supplier, surely they have something to say you should want to hear. Make time for it. Yes, I know it's hard.

  4. Don't send incoming calls to voicemail because you "don't want to deal with it now" or you don't have the answer they are looking for. Deal with it and get whatever it is behind you. That's being productive.

  5. Not everyone is eager to hear your side of a phone conversation. Pick the right time and place to make the call. At the airport leaving your annual technical conference? No - unless you know every single person in your industry by sight. There are very few business matters that won't keep overnight so use your best judgement. However, don't substitute an email just because you are in a public place (see Point 1).

  6. Using the telephone part of your mobile device can set you apart from the rabble, much as a handwritten note can do the same thing. You will be unusual for doing so and many people will remember you and come to count on you.

Call me. I want to hear how you're doing.

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