Phone or Email?
How to have most impact

Will I have more impact by phone or eMail?

We often face the “phone or email” dilemma and we should consciously chose between one or the other. Many advocate that it’s better to call rather than send an eMail. But is that really so? Anyhow, overloaded mailboxes are one of the main reasons for stress and inefficiencies.

To make things worse, we should also take new technologies such as Whatsapp and others into consideration. New technologies (chat, collaboration platforms, videoconferencing, etc) do not solve the problem if you don’t use it well. In most cases we don’t even use the basic techologies well: Phone and eMail

It is certainly not so that a phone call is always better. Here are a few things to consider when choosing between the phone or eMail. But that is only my opinion as communication expert. You might have other experiences. Please do comment on this post.

Reasons to use eMail rather than the phone.

To be factual

There is no non-verbal communication, nor tone of voice with email, hence you will convey less emotion. When you feel very emotional, but you want to stick to pure facts, then eMail might be the right choice. However that won’t work if the subject in itself will be emotional to the reader. (see below)

To explain a full reasoning

In a phone call, you will be interrupted. If you want to explain a more lengthy reasoning without being interrupted, then an eMail might do the trick. Writing your reasoning down will force yourself to be thorough in your reasoning. When written down, it’s easier to see the flaws in your own reasoning. But if the subject raises (unanswered) questions or when it’s emotional to your reader, refrain from using email.

To structure complex information

The most valid reason to use writing is probably structure. Talking over the phone is inherently linear: you say one thing after the other. While in text, using titles, subtitles, indents, bullets and other layout elements, you can bring structure into the information you convey: you can indicate the relative importance and the interdependencies of things. The reader can see the big picture and dig into more detail where and when he needs to.

To leave a trail

In many cases you want proof of what has been said. Or the information needs to be kept for later reference by yourself or the reader. For example: the agenda and the location of your next meeting. In those cases eMail is probably the better solution. Or confirm the phone call by email.

To be time-independent

Most of us are very busy. You can’t get the other person on the phone. That’s probably the most frequent reasons why we use eMail. Another solution might be to fix a time for the phone call. Fixing that time can be done by eMail.

To restrain yourself

You might be back and forth in your thoughts, not totally sure what the right words or arguments are. When writing you can re-read your text before sending it. In a conversation, once it is said, it has been said. If you might be too impulsive, or if you’re not entirely sure what and how to say it, you might consider eMail. But remember that it is dangerous to do so for all the reasons belo

Reasons why you might call instead of writing an email

To discuss or negociate

As soon as you expect an answer or question on which you will want to react again, you are starting a discussion. eMail is not made for discussions. Refrain from using it and call or set up a meeting.

For sensitive and emotional subjects

Our brain instinctively wants to interpret, evaluate and order information it receives. These instinctive interpretations are connected to and influenced by our emotion. But emotion is hard to convey in written text. It is also hard to sense what the reader might feel. If you want to convince, reassure, warn, get full attention, or create any other emotion, don’t use eMail. If you think that your message might create unwanted emotions on the reader side, don’t use email. Talk over the pone, or even better, meet face to face.

For confidential information

eMails can be copied accidentally, and sometimes even less accidentally. If your information is highly confidential. Hand over a printed document or talk to each other. don’t put it on mail.

In order to build rapport

Text is impersonal. We humans need to see the emotion on each other’s faces, hear the tone of voice and (to some extent) smell each other in order to build rapport. In order to truly understand and appreciate each other. Don’t build relationships over email. Talk to each other.

Stop after three loops !

It happens so often: you send a mail with a simple information. The reader reacts with a question or a comment on which you react again, to which that person reacts again. When you feel that you need to send a third eMail on the same subject, stop! You are getting into a discussion. Pick up your phone or schedule a meeting.

Your reactions and opinions?

The above lists are certainly not exhaustive. And they are based on my experience as communication expert. Your experiences and opinions might differ. Please do react, I’m interested to learn different and conflicting opinions.

Here’s some further reading :

Why do people engage in long text conversations? – discussion launched by Amy Cuddy

Article in Forbes by Jason De Mers

by | Jul 9, 2017 | 0 comments

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