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.

Published by rcadden

Just a dude with a phone.

25 thoughts on “Voice Calls Are Incredibly Rude

  1. Fm you find that most people leave you a message? Most me mx older friends still do, but most younger ones do not. Then again, they’re more likely to send a text.

    And yeah, nice save

  2. Fm you find that most people leave you a message? Most me mx older friends still do, but most younger ones do not. Then again, they’re more likely to send a text.

    And yeah, nice save

  3. Thanks for that idea. I am also in the process of FIRING all the idiots in my business and personal life who email to say they are sending a fax, then call to see if you got it!

  4. Thanks for that idea. I am also in the process of FIRING all the idiots in my business and personal life who email to say they are sending a fax, then call to see if you got it!

  5. All I have to say to this is look at what you wrote:

    “Even at an uber-connected event like SXSW, all of the other forms of communication ultimately point to meetups, which are face to face.”

    And then:

    “They’re [referring to phone conversations] technically the same as face to face, only without the visual.”

    Yet you somehow reach this conclusion:

    “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.”

    In Finland I was blown away when a friend of mine sent me a text message asking if I was free to have a phone call and if I wasn’t then when would be a good time. At SXSW you used various tools to plan f2f meetings, use them to plan phone calls too.

    I guarantee you you’ll have infinitely more productive meetings.

  6. All I have to say to this is look at what you wrote:

    “Even at an uber-connected event like SXSW, all of the other forms of communication ultimately point to meetups, which are face to face.”

    And then:

    “They’re [referring to phone conversations] technically the same as face to face, only without the visual.”

    Yet you somehow reach this conclusion:

    “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.”

    In Finland I was blown away when a friend of mine sent me a text message asking if I was free to have a phone call and if I wasn’t then when would be a good time. At SXSW you used various tools to plan f2f meetings, use them to plan phone calls too.

    I guarantee you you’ll have infinitely more productive meetings.

  7. When was it passed into law that you must answer the phone if it rings?
    That is why voicemail was invented!

    If i am busy, i let the call go to voice mail (the operator i am on sends me an SMS *if* the person leaves a voice mail), then when I am free I check the voice mail.
    If it is something like “hi this is John, call me”, then they will get an SMS back.

    More often here in Finland though, if the call goes to voicemail, people hang up and send an SMS instead.

    By the way, you have already written about this before – http://www.rickycadden.com/2008/09/methods-of-communication/ inspired by this http://whatleydude.jaiku.com/presence/44170143 i think

  8. When was it passed into law that you must answer the phone if it rings?
    That is why voicemail was invented!

    If i am busy, i let the call go to voice mail (the operator i am on sends me an SMS *if* the person leaves a voice mail), then when I am free I check the voice mail.
    If it is something like “hi this is John, call me”, then they will get an SMS back.

    More often here in Finland though, if the call goes to voicemail, people hang up and send an SMS instead.

    By the way, you have already written about this before – http://www.rickycadden.com/2008/09/methods-of-communication/ inspired by this http://whatleydude.jaiku.com/presence/44170143 i think

  9. @Stefan – perhaps I wasn’t clear. By ‘ignore their reaction’ (I’m assuming that’s the odd part to you) I meant ignore when they say, ‘Why’d you text me just to warn me that you’re calling’ or whatever they say. Clearly you should respect if they say, ‘wait 10 minutes’ or something like that. Apologies.

    @Mike – It wasn’t – but regardless, even on a phone, voice calls immediately take front-and-center, and you can’t really do much on the phone without being worried about accidentally answering it. I do use my voicemail incessantly, especially now since i don’t have to ‘listen’ to it anymore.

    Thanks for the links – it seems I *had* written about it before (heh). It just popped up numerous times this weekend, is why it was on my mind again. I didn’t realize I already had ‘archives’ here on RC.com, lol.

  10. @Stefan – perhaps I wasn’t clear. By ‘ignore their reaction’ (I’m assuming that’s the odd part to you) I meant ignore when they say, ‘Why’d you text me just to warn me that you’re calling’ or whatever they say. Clearly you should respect if they say, ‘wait 10 minutes’ or something like that. Apologies.

    @Mike – It wasn’t – but regardless, even on a phone, voice calls immediately take front-and-center, and you can’t really do much on the phone without being worried about accidentally answering it. I do use my voicemail incessantly, especially now since i don’t have to ‘listen’ to it anymore.

    Thanks for the links – it seems I *had* written about it before (heh). It just popped up numerous times this weekend, is why it was on my mind again. I didn’t realize I already had ‘archives’ here on RC.com, lol.

  11. In an attempt to push the envelope forward with these ideas, I have had my voicemail specifically set to prompt people to send me text messages instead of leaving a voice message. The recording reads something like “For fastest response, please send a text message with your name, number, etc., OR-“. On the other side of it, there are a good handful of people that send me a warning text before they call for a topical conversation and others that call specifically to speak quickly to arrange a meeting if appropriate.

    This is all very interesting. Nobody taught us to use the phone. We all picked up on what we saw others doing. We’ve had to teach ourselves and each other how to be effective communicators through technology and we have more tools at our disposal to do so than any generation before us.

  12. In an attempt to push the envelope forward with these ideas, I have had my voicemail specifically set to prompt people to send me text messages instead of leaving a voice message. The recording reads something like “For fastest response, please send a text message with your name, number, etc., OR-“. On the other side of it, there are a good handful of people that send me a warning text before they call for a topical conversation and others that call specifically to speak quickly to arrange a meeting if appropriate.

    This is all very interesting. Nobody taught us to use the phone. We all picked up on what we saw others doing. We’ve had to teach ourselves and each other how to be effective communicators through technology and we have more tools at our disposal to do so than any generation before us.

  13. Hmm, this is actually a great idea. It kind of runs along the same lines as people coming over to your house. Its rude to just show up without advanced warning (unless you’re a very close friend who has permission to do such things), so why would it not be rude to just call unexpectedly? This is also somewhat of an emerging taboo, that has begun with the advent of mass cell phone use. Prior to our beloved cells, there wasn’t any way to notify before calling a landline, and I suspect that the current cell phone culture is just an evolution of landline culture.

  14. Hmm, this is actually a great idea. It kind of runs along the same lines as people coming over to your house. Its rude to just show up without advanced warning (unless you’re a very close friend who has permission to do such things), so why would it not be rude to just call unexpectedly? This is also somewhat of an emerging taboo, that has begun with the advent of mass cell phone use. Prior to our beloved cells, there wasn’t any way to notify before calling a landline, and I suspect that the current cell phone culture is just an evolution of landline culture.

  15. “I’m firmly convinced that it should be a social faux pas to simply call someone without properly prefacing the call.”

    You’ve got to be kidding me.

  16. “I’m firmly convinced that it should be a social faux pas to simply call someone without properly prefacing the call.”

    You’ve got to be kidding me.

  17. [slightly off topic]
    I forward calls I don’t want to answer to my disposable K7.net account, which records the voicemail, then sends the file to e-mail.
    It comes in handy sometimes.

  18. [slightly off topic]
    I forward calls I don’t want to answer to my disposable K7.net account, which records the voicemail, then sends the file to e-mail.
    It comes in handy sometimes.

  19. Hi Ricky,This is interesting, as I find phone calls to be incredibly unintrusive and asynchronous, as I don't feel obligated to answer them, whereas I find SMS/text to be very intrusive and that folks expect a reply RIGHT NOW. I use Spinvox and love it. I have it go to email so that I have a written version of what folks are calling about and then I call them back when I have time. When I get a text, I usually delete it and don't reply, if it is important, I will email or call back.Contrary, I tell you. ;o)

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