It’s good to talk…BUT is it better?
I still remember, many moons ago, sitting in my first job manning the reception desk as Front of House Assistant in a busy Marketing Agency. And having, what would now seem, very 'old fashioned' day-to-day responsibilities. These included many tasks that in today's digital age may seem farcical;
- Sending and receiving order confirmations via Fax!
- Writing, printing and distributing company memos to the desks of every member of staff in the company to communicate ANY type of update or company news
- Managing a very busy switchboard, around 15-20 inbound lines and for every message taken, writing messages on telephone message pads and delivering by hand
How times have changed… some for the better, some for the worse. I still find it incredible how you can be sitting 10 feet away, sometimes closer, to a colleague and not speak for hours on end. However, silently still communicating via endless emails, Slack chats, social media and other project management tools. God forbid you raise your head above your laptop screen to utter a spoken word! I know many would shudder at the thought, but the spoken word in any environment is seldom heard these days, with everyone sucked into a zombie-like 'smartphone' trance.
So, if we're choosing to avoid verbal communication with our colleagues sitting in the same room, how are we managing relationships with the outside world, with our suppliers and clients alike? I would imagine the majority would answer the same: "via Email".
So, the big question – Which is best - Email or Call?
Call me old school but I am still a strong believer in the spoken word over a 'typed' one when it comes to communicating. Many problems are solved quickly and more effectively over a two-way conversation. Which, if addressed by email, could go on for hours, even days… I find it so much better to just pick up the phone to speak directly to someone. However, this isn't always the right choice and isn't more convenient for everyone.
To help us all make the right 'call' (see what I did there?), I have highlighted below my recommendations for when I think we should be writing an Email and when a phone call would be best depending on different scenarios/situations we may all come across in the future.
When an email is recommended:
- When you need something tangible to confirm a decision, booking, agreement between two parties
- When communicating procedures, processes, anything that would potentially need to be referred back to in the future
- When sending documents; contact reports, orders, invoices, contracts, presentations, creative concepts
When a telephone call is recommended:
- To discuss anything sensitive or convey negativity, requiring personal relationship skills that convey empathy or sympathy that would be lost in an email
- To resolve a situation swiftly and personably
- To pass on or receive information; A creative briefing for example should always be followed up with a verbal briefing. We naturally provide more information through a verbal conversation that could be lost in translation through the written work
- To help build new relationships; communicating verbally with someone builds trust and authenticity
To help further, I have also highlighted below some advantages and disadvantages of both communication methods.
Advantages of Email:
- It's convenient for both the sender and recipient. As the sender, you can write at your own pace and edit as many times as you like before sending. As the recipient, you also get to choose a convenient time to read and respond accordingly
- You can send the same message to as many people as you want at the same time
- Quick, easy and simple communication method when you have simple messages to convey
Disadvantages of Email:
- Sincerity, tone of voice and personality can be lost in translation
- Emails can be ignored by the recipients, causing delays in any responses required by a deadline
- Can be a very long and laborious communication process, back-and-forth communications over numerous days before resolutions and answers are secured
Advantages of Phone Calls:
- More personable and genuine. You can convey feelings more easily with less chance of being misunderstood
- Much stronger way of building relationships
- It takes less effort to talk than it does to write. Naturally we will provide more in-depth information verbally than we will in the written word
- Actions, debates, disagreements are agreed and resolved a lot more effectively and timely
Disadvantages of Phone Calls:
- You could call at the wrong time, interrupting the recipient's timetable
- Sometimes you need to find somewhere private to make a call
- You can't edit a telephone call; You have to react spontaneously as the conversation progresses with no way of detracting anything
- Unless you follow up the verbal conversation with an Email, there is no evidence of any agreements or decisions made during a call
SO, which communication method is King (or Queen)?
Taking all of the above into consideration, the only answer here is NEITHER. The winning formula is BOTH. A perfect combination!
I don’t think we should be asking ourselves which is the better, easiest or preferred method of communication for us personally, but instead asking which is the BEST method based on the unique situation in hand. Meaning, inevitably, at some point in the future we will all need to venture out of our comfort zone and make that call!
One thing is certain, regardless of how it is achieved and by which method - "Communication is key".