Voice Calls Are Incredibly Rude

I’ve had tons of conversations in the past few hours, but one theme that arises quite often is the notion of how to connect with people. Clearly face to face meetings are still the utmost in communication. Even at an uber-connected event like SXSW, all of the other forms of communication ultimately point to meetups, which are face to face. However, I used to think that voice calling was the next logical step in terms of personal communication. They’re technically the same as face to face, only without the visual. The problem with voice calls is that they’re unbelievably rude and invasive.

When I call someone via voice, I’m basically telling them: I need to talk to you RIGHT NOW. Whatever you might be doing at the moment is irrelevant; my need is more important. Stop what you’re doing, immediately, and talk to me. The result is when someone calls me on the phone, they seldom get my full attention, because I am seldom not doing anything, just waiting on the edge of my seat for their phone call.

But what if I was? What if the social norm was to preface any phone call with an email/SMS, informing the person that you’d like to chat with them on the phone in a few minutes? How different would that make voice calls? Note, this is not me scheduling for a bit of your time – this is me politely informing you that I would like to chat, and politely giving you the opportunity to finish whatever it is that you’re doing, or come to a point where you step back for a moment to talk to me.

The result, I would imagine, is that I would be more focused on our phone conversation, and would thus be more likely to remember what was said, and to be more responsive during said conversation. How often have you been ‘on’ a call, but not quite paying attention?

I have personally replaced most of my voice conversations in this way. Spinvox takes my voicemail and transcribes them into text, delivered as email and SMS. Thus, if you call me (and you’re not my wife) and I’m doing something, I’ll let you go to voicemail without hesitation. You’ll leave a voicemail (cause you’re conditioned to – they often say something like, ‘Hey, it’s John, call me when you get this’, which I could have figured out by my missed calls list) and then moments later, I get a text that I can read, process, and call you back, often more prepared for the conversation.

Try this – for a week, before you call anyone, send them an SMS or an email (clearly this will only work on people who use those services), simply saying, ‘Hey, I’m going to call you in a few minutes, I’d like to chat about _________’ Now, ignore whatever reaction they have, and simply pay attention to how attentive they are during your call. I promise, they’ll be more ‘into’ the conversation, and it will be a much more productive phone call.

I’m firmly convinced that it should be a social faux pas to simply call someone without properly prefacing the call. Odds are, if you call me, unless you’re my wife, you’re going to go to voicemail. Don’t take it personally.

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