The WSJ has an article today called “Y U Luv Texts, H8 Calls: We want to reach others but not to be interrupted.” The sub-headline says it all, really. Despite the loss of context and tone that can be conveyed by an oral conversation, people prefer more and more to communicate by email or text message. “That [our cell phones] are phones is increasingly beside the point.”
No lie. We dropped our landline years and years ago, because who needs it? We hate to call others on the phone, because it’s just rude to interrupt someone like that. We rarely answer the phone when it’s ringing — it’s on silent 99% of the time anyway — because whoever is calling is just rudely interrupting us, especially if we happen to be talking to someone else in person at the time. If it’s that important, they can leave a message. And thanks to Visual Voice Mail, we can decide whether to listen to it in the first place. (Tip: if the message is lengthy, it’s probably going to be ignored until we can get around to it. Who has time for that? And forget about using old-fashioned voice mail — who has time to listen through three pointless messages from vendors on the off chance that message four is worthwhile?)
Email and texts, on the other hand, are ideal. You can say what you want, edit it if you want to unsay or revise a thought, without interruption. And the other person can read it when they get a chance. Emails come right to your phone, and can be read any time. The information gets conveyed, everyone’s happy, nobody was rudely interrupted. There are no missed calls — the words are there to be read whenever you get a chance. You don’t have to wade through a queue of voice mails to get the nugget of information five messages back (or 70 seconds into that one message).
If, as in most lawyer communications, you’re talking (figuratively) about a document, image, website or whatever, you can’t attach it to a phone call or a voice mail. Email is the way to go.
(And please, don’t fax anything. What is this, 1985? Nobody carries a fax machine around with them. PDF it, please.)
If you think this attitude is somehow bad for business, then again, this isn’t 1985. Over the past few years, the number of our potential and actual clients who have preferred the telephone to emails and texts has rapidly approached zero.
Face-to-face is always best. We’d rather sit side-by-side with a client to go over those documents (or that mass of emails the government is misinterpreting). So much more information can be conveyed in a 10-minute chat than in a day’s worth of emails. And sometimes a phone call really is the best option. But most of the time, if a meeting is impractical (and it usually is), then text or email… don’t call.