Make a Call, Take a Meeting

meetingMost business is done by email these days. And why not? It’s convenient and it’s non-intrusive — you can write or respond to emails on your own schedule. I’ve noticed that many of us have even become phone-averse and actively avoid the phone in favor of email. But I think something has been lost when we do our business primarily through written, electronic communication.

Email is the least personal way we communicate; when you can’t see someone’s face or hear their voice, many layers of nuance are imperceptible. So I’m trying to use the phone more, even though many people see the phone as an intrusion. Most of the time, we end up scheduling phone calls – it’s a crap shoot to just pick up the phone and call, since most of the time you’ll get voicemail. But I think it’s worth the effort. Some conversations work so much better when you can talk rather than write back and forth.

I have a lot of meetings via Skype and Google+ Hangouts (video chat). It’s better than email and even one step better than the phone.

But every time I have an actual in-person meeting with someone, it reminds me that face-to-face beats all. Yesterday I was lucky to have four in-person meetings with people I regularly have contact with through email and phone. It felt like such a productive day, because when sitting across from someone, connections are made that would never be made any other way. The conversation can flow in ways it never would in email or on the phone, and great things can come out of it.

I’ll still be using email for my day-to-day business, but I’m going to be more proactive about making phone calls and scheduling in-person meetings as often as possible. I think the more we connect with one another in real ways, the better off we are.

What do you think? Is a movement back toward more personal forms of communication coming? Which do you prefer, phone, email, Skype?

  1. I like the idea of getting back to more personal forms of communication in all aspects of business.

    However, I love Skype as it allows us to indulge in interactive songs, nursery rhymes, and fingerplays with our little grandchildren who live in Finland.

    It was a magical moment when our granddaughter saw her American grandfather for the first time in person. She studied his face, gave a tentative “do we know each other?” smile, and then broke into giggles when he sat down, took her foot in his hand and began with “This Little Piggie.” We could almost hear her thinking, “It’s the funny guy I see every week on Skype, and he’s here and he’s real!” She doesn’t have words yet, but the light in her eyes spoke volumes.

  2. I do agree that face to face meetings connect you to fellow coworkers far better than emails, but that’s not ALWAYS a good thing 🙂
    Five reasons I love email over every other form of contact:
    1. Documented evidence of the conversation.
    2. Built in system for reminders / new stuff / appointments upcoming / etc
    3. I can perfect what I want to say. Typically, I’m a good speaker, but I like editing and re-editing my emails. It feels like “writing.”
    4. I can do it on my schedule. I’m never interupted by incoming emails, or have to stop what I’m doing to reply to someone.
    5. I can roll my eyes, scream at the sender, call him names, write something really nasty, then delete it all and reply nicely after I’ve calmed down and they never know what a jerk I am.

  3. I was listening to a psych nurse last year as she talked about non-verbal communication, which conveys 90% of what we communicate. She described how people, typically 25 and under have a big problem with “facial leakage”. She had to explain to me what that was: involuntary non-verbal facial expression like eye rolling or glaring. In the psych world apparently it’s a thing being noticed because younger people aren’t being taught how to interact in person anymore as face to face interactions aren’t as necessary as they once were.

    Realistically, we’ll never have as many face to face meetings as people did 50 years ago, but it is refreshing when somebody you meet or have to work with provides the opportunity to get back to basics.

  4. Denise Hisey says:

    I think the more personal, the better.
    If given a choice, I’ll (usually) take whichever option is the most personal.

  5. Cecelia says:

    I sincerely hope personal communication is about to become the new wave – again! To hear someone’s voice, or to speak with another person face to face is uplifting, comforting and honest.

    I live alone and try to keep in contact with family by email; those who live a distance away. But there is nothing more heart warming than hearing a friendly voice, knowing they have taken the time to make the call because they want to keep in touch and hear my voice as well.
    Through no one’s fault,emails can be wounding and words clinical when tapped off in a hurry.

  6. I haven’t tried Skype so I can’t comment on that, but I think either face-to-face contact or the phone. Face-to-face is better because you can see the body language and look them in the eye. If that isn’t possible, the phone is the next best. At least you are able to hear the voice inflections and have an immediate conversation, without waiting for an email. I find the voice mail tag irritating however. A pet peeve: People who are in business that never answer their phones! That in itself is a whole other issue though. I do correspond by email mostly these days, because it seems to be the only way to reach some people. I do miss the conversations though.

  7. Rachelle, I agree with your points, but in certain situations, I think written communication (email) works better. I provide e-spiritual direction on a limited basis for those out of my area. The monthly email allows the directee to carefully process their spiritual experience and provides me with time to pray over the writing before sending my response and suggestions. This works quite well.

  8. Lisa says:

    I love face to face meetings! I find it so much easier to connect and encourage this way.

  9. Science backs up your claim. It’s more than just a preference.

    I was talking to a doctor friend about something similar and he said, “People forget that we’re all just balls of energy. When we’re together, the energy LITERALLY flows back and forth. It’s why phrases like, ‘We really connected’, ‘We bonded’, or ‘I gel with him.’ have become cliche. In person, we literally do. Objects in motion stay in motion. For every action, there’s a reaction. Energy flows freely in person, but not through a phone or screen.”

  10. Cathy West says:

    I think you must schedule an in person meeting with me at my house. You can call it a working vacation. Maybe it’ll even be tax deductible!

  11. Facetime with our ipads is great for connection with our children in Haiti. But let me tell you the picture are strange. The poor connection makes them look like a impressionist type painting. The mouth/voice is not at all synced. And we know we look just as strange to them. But when it is family, it is awesome.

    But it is also the reason I shy away from that type of connection for business.

  12. Kathy says:

    I prefer face to face. I remember once when I was a teacher, several of us were giving presentations at a meeting. Everyone but me used Power Point. I spoke and used old-fashioned hand-outs. I noticed that with the Power Point, the audience members were focused on the screen. When I spoke, they looked at me. What a difference to have that personal connection!
    But emails are great for quick communication.

  13. Peter DeHaan says:

    If I want to connect with someone, meeting in person is by far the best.

    However, if precise communication is required, email is better, as it let’s me carefully craft my message. After all, I am a writer because that’s the communication form I’m best at.

  14. Absolutely! We need to connect more. I think when it comes down to the nitty gritty an in-person meeting is always best. However, having said that, the one way emails trump phone calls is that for me, I like to put all my thoughts on paper and edit so I know it’s clear before it is received by the other. I can put everything on the table without interruptions.

  15. Sue Harrison says:

    A personal connection is wonderful – email, phone conversation, Skype, or in person. When I connect on any level with a friend or a business partner, I feel like I have a better grip on the situation and more hope during tough times.

    During one of the most difficult decades in my life, when I was swamped by caregiving requirements and my career needed serious re-vamping, the person I leaned on for business advice avoided personal contact of any kind – for years. When I realized that this was true, not just for me but for all her clients, I finally gathered courage enough to end the relationship (after repeating this “mantra” for months – “It’s not personal. It’s business!”)

  16. Laura K. Cowan says:

    I think anyone would be lucky to have an agent with that attitude. Good for you thinking about that personal connection.

  17. Jackie Ley says:

    New media’s great but if I wrote sc-fi I’d predict a world where no-one had personal contact any more and like salmon, we’d have an annual global get together to spawn, with the rest of the year devoted to remote communication. Scarey, outlandish scenario, but it could be the way we’re heading. Sci-fi writers, feel free to use the plot line!

  18. Sidney Ross says:

    I’ve had a good bit of luck with ‘smoke signals’. I can just puff puff away and everything seemingly, is absolutely delightful. My wife insists that the cat and I- take it outdoors.

  19. The type of media depends on the context. Email is fine for data exchange and I love the multiple recipients and ability to forward them. Texting is good for quick informational exchanges. Since my wife’s family lives in Denmark, Skype is a blessing for a face to face. Yet there’s nothing like a good in person conversation to develop the intimacy necessary for inter-dependence.

    I will say one thing about email and instant messaging. Sometimes it’s better for people who are shy or who get tongue-tied. These individuals can shine when they aren’t worried about their personal appearance or demeanor. You can’t backspace in a face to face, but how great it is to be able to in a message. On second thought, no wait, yeah, I meant that, I think…yeah, I’ll leave it.

  20. Lynda Schmeichel says:

    After many, many years of answering other people’s phones & customer service I am very against using the phone. I do still use it to talk to my children but prefer Skype if they want to use it.
    I prefer e-mails & tweets. If there is business to conduct, definitely emails so there is a record of what transpires. But once most of the details have been worked out, then a face to face or phone meeting is definitely in order to make sure everyone is on the same page.

  21. I love phone calls, and actually hearing a person’s voice. I miss a good gab on the phone with a friend. Best is to meet for coffee and actually have a face to face chat. Writers spend a lot of time alone and online. I have my writer Facebook friends and I notice we are on it more than others! Go figure!

  22. I prefer breaking the ice via phone and email, and then closing face-to-face. If necessary, I can do it all, but I MUCH prefer email and the like to get acquainted with a potential client. Reading one’s grammaer and writing style is usually a pretty good indication as to what I’d be getting into.

  23. I far prefer face-to-face, or letters…the actual physical kind, with the stamp on the envelope…remember those?

    Email etiquette is kind of awful, and getting worse – most emails begin with an opening salutation of just my name. No “dear”, no “hello”, nothing. Reads like someone’s raised their voice to get my attention. The excuse I have heard is that it saves time. Oh, please. What is so hard in composing an email like a letter, with a salutation and closing? (I’ll grant that it can be relaxed for follow-up emails, but the first one of the day to an individual should really show courtesy.)

    Phone’s fine, or would be if I lived where the service was worth the money.

    I’m not thrilled with videoconferencing. Sometimes – when you need to show someone an object – it’s useful. Usually it’s a gimmick, done because it can be done.

    Fifty years ago people lived without email and skype and even teleconferencing. Things still got done.

    Are we really better off?

    I’ll get back to tossing wooden shoes into weaving mills now.

  24. Heather says:

    When I deal with people in the architecture world, it’s usually with consultants. Email is usually best for us, preferably with drawings as a reference, and usually because then we have something to go back to. If we talk on the phone or meeting in person, I try to take copious notes so that I can remember, and have a backup just in case. That way I can always refer back to what was done.

    But when it comes to site issues, in person is always better, especially with photographs. Then we don’t have to rely on words for the problems, and we can troubleshoot in person. It eliminates most misunderstandings.

  25. Erin says:

    This is so true! I have been in the process of hiring freelance writers for a project and have emailed to ask to set up a phone meeting and have had several respond and say “why can’t we just do this over email” It’s a bit jolting– not to mention that email is MUCH more time consuming than a five-minute conversation. There’s so much back-and-forth via email.

  26. Nikole Hahn says:

    I am one of those adverse to phone calls. I am an email, social networking, or in person kind of gal. Even before email, I didn’t like phone calls. LOL.

  27. I tend to be an emailer– simply because I feel less demanding of attention that way… especially for issues that are non-urgent. It’s odd though, how it has made me nervous to pick up the phone and call people for fear of disturbing them.

    But on the flip side, I LOVE getting phone calls because sometimes a voice is just better than trying to read into what someone has written.

    Skype is cool too… although means that I actually have to, like, do my hair and make up. *gulp* 🙂

    Oh, and I also use email when I want to “record” what I’ve sent or when I sent something, especially in business. Provides backup when someone says, “You never sent that!”

  28. I actually feel the most comfortable with some kind of writing or the phone. My husband, oddly enough, prefers face-to-face than the phone, which I don’t understand. That’s the most difficult form of communi- cation for me.

  29. I work remotely a couple thousand miles away from my firm’s office. I also use Google Hangouts and Skype a lot. My trips back to California are like gold to me for all of the face-to-face interaction. And I agree…email is often NOT the best way. Thanks for posting this, Rachelle.

  30. Angela Mills says:

    I think I would prefer in face with someone instead of skype, because for some reason i feel self-conscious on skype. I often put off phone calls because I’m kind of introverted, but then I’m always happy afterwards when I’ve talked to someone for a while, as opposed to emailing. So I just need to make that effort more often!

  31. Roxanne Sherwood Gray says:

    I’ve seen so many people get in trouble with email that I regularly save any overnight which could me misconstrued and re-read them the next day with a fresh eye. Even so, email is a great way to communicate. But I still love in-person when possible, which is one reason to attend writers conferences.

  32. Heather says:

    I am very phone-averse. I have a small (or large) phone-phobia. I prefer e-mail and when phone calls are needed, I tend to hyperventilate and talk too fast. As a writer by nature, I communicate best in written form. I know verbal communication skills are a must, but not everyone comes by them easily.

  33. I like face to face meetings too, and using the phone. Simple things often take hours to nut out via email, and a phone call or meeting can have all the details sorted much more quickly.

    That said, I work irregular hours and I’m in a different time zone to many of the people I work with, so email is fantastic in that respect.

  34. For business, I prefer the phone. Meeting in person is much more difficult to coordinate, and more time consuming. The immediate exchange of information over the phone also allows me to clarify any questions I have right away.

    I haven’t used video chat, but as I work from home I’m not sure I want to. Unless I lock them out, my cats often intrude on my workspace. Combine that with my typically casual attire and I think it might make me appear unprofessional no matter how business-like I sound.

  35. I wonder if our face-to-face skills get just as rusty as handwriting skills.

  36. I actually like a combination of electronic and phone interviews if a face-to-face is not available. Just a few moments ago, I hung up from a phone interview for a major newspaper. Yesterday the reporter emailed me a series of questions. I responded to her questions via email, then today we had a casual conversation which allowed us to get to know each other. Having the questions in advance helped me to thoughtfully shape my answers, but the follow-up phone interview was an opportunity for my personality to be involved.

  37. Yep, I’ve felt this for a long time. There’s just something about hearing somebody’s voice.

    Love our phone talks!
    ~ Wendy

  38. jeffo says:

    It’s funny, I remember how, almost twenty years ago, an office I worked in got a fancy new phone system with built-in voicemail (previously, each office had their own answering machine shared among all in that particular office). Once everyone got the hang of it, it became much harder to actually reach anyone on the first try. I think there’s some sneaky little part of people that likes to avoid direct contact as much as possible.

  39. Melinda says:

    I prefer in-person meetings hands down. Eye contact not only ensures that your own point is delivered in just the tone (both verbal and nonverbal) you want to convey, it also allows you to assess the other person’s nonverbal response immediately. And by that token, I can’t stand video chat due to a technicality: when the other person speaks they look at where my eyes are as I appear on their own monitor, which makes their eyes appear on my monitor as if they’re talking to my chin. Maybe we should all tape our webcams to the center of our screens!

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