I am not a phone call person, but I do love my smartphone. I screen my phone calls, which means I will look at the caller ID and then not answer the phone. If you show up in my address book, I usually will answer but if your number does not exist in my phone, then I most likely will not answer your call. Is it sad that I want to know who is calling me before I answer the phone? Even so, I am usually faster at responding to your email, and even faster at responding to your text, than your phone call. Why?
A phone call takes longer. You never know how long it will last. An email you can decide when you feel inspired to respond, or when you have the brain space, and a text is usually short, sweet, and quick. Often you would get the most responses from me via text. I can remember the wall phone in our kitchen growing up had the longest cord. I am sure the long cord drove my parents crazy. When we received a phone call from a friend we would pull the cord as long it would go, and sit on the toilet in the hall bathroom and close the door (both for privacy and the heat coming from the floor vent). I no longer crave being on the phone as I did as a kid in that hall bathroom.
Last weekend, during Portland’s mini snowstorm, I caught up on my Fast Company magazines and found the article: “Secrets of the Most Productive People” in the December 2013/January 2014 issue, Alexis Ohanian, cofounder of Reddit said:
“To me, the idea of calling someone unprompted is basically saying, ‘Hey, stop whatever you’re doing and talk to me right now.’ If you find yourself in the middle of something, getting an unprompted annoyance is incredibly frustrating. So I try to respect that. Unless it’s really an emergency, I’m not going to bother you. And you can see people chafe at that. You’re in the same office and instant-message each other? Why don’t you just walk over? That’s the perfect example of how ingrained the status quo is. To certain people, it may seem lazy, but I would argue it’s much more efficient and considerate.”
I so agree with Ohanian. As we have drifted from corded phones, to cordless phones, to smart phones our etiquette maybe has not caught up. When I talk on the phone with a friend or family member it is because I have either answered their call, or I have decided to dedicate that time just to them. Now that does not mean I might not be doing dishes, or cleaning the bathroom, but I am not working or multi-tasking in ways that means my mind is not on their phone call. The phone for me is used when I can dedicate my thoughts and mind space to that person. Email has become a way to communicate when schedules and time zones do not align to be able to always communicate via phone. Text is for instant and quick communication.
I can also tell you that I do instant message someone in my same area, and not walk over to their desk. Why? Is it lazy? Yes, and no. Often we are working on different projects and rather than interrupt another individual’s flow of work, an instant message means that you can ask a question and they can answer when it works for them. What do you prefer? A phone call, email, or text message?