For the purpose of the next few minutes, let’s just focus on these 2 means of communication since they are the most common in the business world. (Although as more millennials gain influence maybe texting and IM or other means will become prevalent.)
Most workers have a strong preference for one or the other – email or phone. Each has advantages and disadvantages, aficionados and detractors. We like to use tools that are most comfortable, but should we?
I prefer email for several reasons. I can create a draft and then refine my message before I send it. This doesn’t preclude the recipient from misunderstanding my intent, but it does give me the opportunity to be measured and prudent. (Plus, I’m a writer.) I dislike phone tag – there are many days when it seems marginally possible to catch the person that I need at the very moment when we are both free.
But there are topics and times when the phone is the best means of reaching out – I get immediate feedback from the other person whether we are in agreement and can move to take action together. When I have a topic that should be covered by phone, I will use a quick email whenever possible as a lead in to sketch out my intent and ask for a good time/day to talk on the phone. This diffuses phone tag, hopefully – and prepares the person for the topic.
Another point to keep in mind is the dynamic of the relationship – do I hold the stronger position or does the person with whom I want to communicate? If the person holds the stronger position, what is their preferred method of contact? I’m more likely to be successful if I mirror this person’s methods of contact.
Whatever your preferred method, use the other person’s time judiciously – be prepared with your important points and any corroborating materials. Be clear in your expectations of the outcome for the contact. If you are fishing, you can still be clear about expectations – but try not to be leading.
© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations