The best tele-marketer ever had a line for everything, except when I hung up, after that I don’t know what he said.
As far as I’m concerned the telephone is the single worst form of communication the human race ever developed.
It lacks the body language cues of a face-to-face conversation, or the ability to contemplate and edit a response that you get with any form of written communications (even IMs). It demands immediacy of response and creates a situation where stopping the think is awkward in a way it isn’t in a face-to-face (to a point).
And to top it off, pretty much everything I discuss on the phone then needs to be written down and confirmed to make sure everyone remembers the call the same.
I don’t go for the “all meetings are bad” idea, some are great as a way to bash out big ideas, spitballing, but smaller issues, and bashing out the details are almost always better done by email. The phone is almost never the right form of communication for anything.
And yet I often wish people would just call me, or I could call them (without playing phone tag for three days, or scheduling it a month in advance).
There are many times when a 5 minute phone call saves hours of time, dozens of emails, and great frustration.
Then there are the people who email me at 7:00pm when they know I’ve stopped working two hours ago with “Urgent! Blah, I screwed up my website but I’m going to blame you, blah, blah!”
I’ve had many of these calls.
There’s a myriad of reasons behind why they happen, but oftentimes the chatty ones are:
- Them explaining to you (and themselves) why they are important
- Why they think the project is important (and by extension themselves, their company, and the deadline)
- The context and history of the project, which they think is important (and may or may not be)
- Because some people are more social animals than others.
Item 4, I have seen clients happily chat away, knowing that it’s costing hundreds of dollars an hour for your time.
What I’ve really tried to do lately as I’ve become aware of the “Some people are just social” part of it is just to make sure that everything besides an initial call is going to be compensated. I feel a lot better when I feel my time isn’t being “wasted” and in fact is being paid for. In person meetings (I am in Vermont, these are frequently an hour or more away) get the same treatment. Much cheerier when I am being paid for driving time.
And yeah the five minute “Let’s have a telephone stand-up” sorts of calls are totally fine. A lot of the time I just feel like I’m in Groundhog Day where I’m having the exact same phone call I did a month or two ago (and I know how it’s going to end and where it’s going) but it’s brand new for everyone else and I just have to wait and go through the motions.
I felt like I had to tell a lot of people “No I wasn’t talking about YOU” after I published this.
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