There is a two-word sentence with the power to move a conversation away from the screen: Call me.
When asking mavens and veterans how to succeed in this industry, they often say to pick up the phone. This advice is critical in both the tangible and the abstract.
On the practical side, you can clear up in five minutes what several emails—maybe over a few days—might need to achieve. If there’s time, a few tangents might get explored during the conversation. In the abstract, two minds, playing off one another, wind away and back again to the matter at hand. Colored with tone and nuance, a phone call provides an experience that might otherwise have been lost in the fissures along the cyber network. That five-minute call may have become 15, but connection makes the time valuable and the work enjoyable.
Why, then, is the advice to pick up the phone needed? Every education session, or, for our team at The Snack, retiring interview, the same lesson is imparted. Because, simply, it’s not happening.
I understand why the masters of our industry advise not to get trapped in the inbox. Yet even I, someone whose energy is recharged by connection, have faltered when it’s come time to dial. For my part, a memory of a text message replays any time I pick up the phone: a snapshot of an industry member’s schedule with multiple overlapping meetings and no visible business hour constraints to stop the chaos.
They intended for me to find a window for us to connect after months of back and forth via emails, but what I saw was humbling. In the face of a barrage of meetings, Zooms, and more, it can be hard to justify a call over the convenience of a text or email, which effectively puts the communication ball out of my court and into the hands of what I perceive to be the more hectic calendar. Imagining the power to disrupt an entire day in a single, unplanned conversation is remarkably easy. But, experiences tell me the opposite is true. The real worst case is that they simply don’t answer.
Though mine is one of a million experiences of how
we can get trapped in the digital, it is also a mirror: Any conversation, no matter the medium, is a two-way street. Alleviating as it is for my anxiety when the other party is the one to initiate the “call me” sequence, I too can send a message asking to call and let the management of their time
Speaking to those in my generation or newer to the workforce who might text more than talk, personally and professionally, it’s easy to forget calling is even an option. Whether it’s a sticky note next to your desk or an alarm asking, “Have you called them?” we can make more of an effort to ensure we hear our contacts’ voices outside of trade shows and industry events. And if, like me, you’re worried about disrupting a decision-maker’s day, it never hurts to ask amid a lengthening email chain, “Can I give you a call?”
Personality and golden nuggets emerge in between talking shop that you will never gain over email. While at first glance it can seem to grate against the gears of efficiency (something newer employees in particular fear on a fundamental level) we are meant to connect. To do so does not halt the wheel we are all a part of—it elevates it.