Almost broke my cardinal rule this morning. I started to make a list of all the people I should email. While email is an awesome tool and convenience in the modern world, I’ve mentioned before that it’s very tempting to use because it’s easier than making a phone call sometimes. On the flip side you have to recognize that there are times that while it may be more convenient and ensure that you’re able to dedicate only the time that you want to dedicate to that interaction, it really does leave something to be desired as far as maintaining a real connection to the person that you’re talking with. It’s just not as good, period.
A phone call is very personal and enables you to have a sort of back and forth that is impossible to replicate over email. The ability to have some quick personal interaction is incredibly valuable in almost any setting. By that I mean whether that person is your client, your boss, a direct report, or whoever it is, that rapport and personal bond between the two of you is what counts in crunch time. When you need something done fast, those personal relationships are oftentimes what make the difference between success and failure.
You shouldn’t confuse, “I email regularly with somebody” with “I have a personal relationship with that person.” Whereas if you’re regularly on the phone having a conversation with somebody, you have a personal relationship with that person in a way that you just cannot have via email. Email is great for exchanging information but it’s not that great for developing personal relationships. I think way too often we end up having people that we correspond with on almost a daily basis but because it’s all email, it’s almost always all business. Strictly email correspondence is sort of lacking in nuance from a personal perspective so you don’t as easily develop a meaningful personal relationship.
I think that if you have the luxury of having a little bit of extra time, it’s great to use that time to communicate over the phone. I know that there are people out there that say, “Well with the phone you don’t have a record of the conversation,” or “It’s harder to get action items out.” While that’s all true, you can easily just have the phone call and follow up with an email summarizing any actions discussed. It’s especially important to use the phone if it’s important to your business, your projects, or maybe your long term development as a person. Take the time to have the phone call and to develop the personal relationship.
I’m convinced that the more offline you get and the more on the phone conversations you have, the better off you will be in the long run. Generally via email, you don’t ask somebody how their daughters doing, or if they enjoyed the dinner that they had last week, or whatever it is. Those are the types of things that build the bond back and forth. That person learns a little bit about you and what makes you tick, and you learn a little about them. It’s building from those instances that make you more likely to go the extra mile for that person and vice versa. I know I don’t have any quantifiable evidence of that but I strongly believe in the power of the telephone.