27 Jan Should You Call, Email or Text?


Have you ever received a call or text and thought, “Why didn’t you email me?”

Have you ever received an email and thought, “Why didn’t you call or text me?”

Here is my favorite. Have you ever had a text and email conversation with the same person at the same time?

While everyone has a different philosophy when it comes to communication, you must be able to manage all three media in order to be an effective communicator. The good news is that all three options function on a single device … your smartphone. The bad news is that just because they all operate on the same device does not mean that they should all be used in the same way.  Doing this  would quickly turn your smartphone into a dumb phone.

Today, I’m going to share with you my reaction to 10 different scenarios, to help you choose which might be the best response — calling, emailing or texting.  This works best for me, but you might prefer a different option.

Scenario #1 — Your mom, dad, spouse, sibling, child, boss or great friend (anyone signed up for Derek’s Dose)  needs to talk. Talk now! Use any medium at any time.

Scenario #2 — You want a response within two days. Send an email and wait. You have a reason for why you can wait two days for a response. It’s just not that urgent. Don’t expect people to check their email every two minutes. In fact, some people set their emails to only come through every fifteen to thirty minutes. Stop hitting send, only to walk to their office shortly thereafter to ask if they’ve received your email.  At the same time, if you receive an email and don’t have time to reply immediately, at least take the time to acknowledge receipt of the email.

Scenario #3 — You want a response at some point today. Send a text.  It’s important. Contrary to popular belief, texting does not replace email or phone. When you send a text, please realize that the recipient is filling his or her time with someone or something when the notification pops up. Don’t expect people to respond while they are in a meeting. Don’t text when it’s not important. That’s annoying. Here is a tip … when you receive a text that is not important, or from a person who is not close to you, respond to the text with an email to try to change their future behavior. It’s ok to say hello at the beginning of a text, especially if you are asking someone to do something … and be sure to be clear in your text.  I have a terrible habit of texting, “Swing by when you have time” to the managers who report to me. Recently, one manager replied, “Swing by for what?” Be specific to some extent,  so that they can better manage their response time.

Scenario #4 — You need an immediate response. I’ll never forget the time when a speaker asked the audience, “Do you get annoyed when the phone rings? If so, please stand up.” Guess what percentage of the audience stood up … 99%! This doesn’t mean you have to stop making phone calls. It does mean to think before you make a phone call. A great way to know whether or not to call is to think that “a fire (or crisis) equals a phone call”. Don’t call when it’s not urgent — unless you have a very close relationship. Mom, call anytime! As I mentioned in the scenario above, you don’t have to respond with the same medium. If you receive a call that is not urgent from a person who is not close to you, it’s ok to acknowledge the call with an email.  If the concern isn’t handled via email, be sure to eventually return the call.

Scenario #5 — You want to provide information to someone. Send an email.

Click to Tweet: Email is for information, not for conversation. @derekdeprey #movetoconnect

Think about this. If you want your team meetings to be full of great discussions,  you should use email prior to the meeting to give your team basic information. This way, you can prevent your meetings from being a big and boring information dump. Sending the prior email with pertinent information gives all of your team the time to think about what they are there to discuss.  On the other hand, meet in person or schedule a call if you need to have a conversation. I’ll never forget the time when a boss of mine showed me a 20 page printout of an email “conversation” that I had had with someone, that lasted over the course of 5 days. I was so embarrassed, the recipient and I went back and forth at least 15 times. Duh. A 15-minute scheduled conference call would have saved the week.  Lesson learned.

Scenario #6 — You hate email. Sorry. I think I just heard your bubble bursting.  Email is still the number one way to communicate at work, and it’s not going anywhere any time soon. If you fail to manage your email, everything else will likely crash and burn. You’ll be interrupted with texts and calls all day long, because you never respond to your email. If you find yourself overwhelmed with the number of emails you receive, get organized.  Create folders, file the emails appropriately, and then schedule time to work through each folder. For instance, if you receive a lot of email newsletters like this one, create a folder called “Personal Development”. Then take the time once a week to block off a set amount of time to read and grow.  (Yes, reading in the bathroom is ok — you know who you are.) Because people want flexibility and can control their inbox, I don’t believe in having “rules” at work that say, “Don’t send email on weekends or outside of 8am-6pm during the week.”

Scenario #7 — You know that your friend is driving and you have a funny meme to share. Don’t text right away. Don’t put him or her in a position to make a decision. Send an email or wait to send the text.

Scenario #8 — You made a phone call and were put into voicemail. Due to the number of communication options available, I only receive a handful of voicemails a day. Believe it or not, I often forget to check my voicemail messages because I’m so programmed to text and email. Because of the decrease in voicemail popularity, I tend to hang up and skip leaving a voicemail message when I call.  Instead, I send a text asking, “Henrietta, please call me when you have a moment to discuss the points for our next meeting agenda.” Much more efficient for me! Like the example above, be sure to include the reason for the upcoming phone call. I can, however, see both sides … leaving a voicemail or not leaving a voicemail. For some people, texting and emailing is more efficient. For others, leaving a voicemail is more efficient. (Please note: If you don’t know the person, leave a voicemail. For many people, texting feels intrusive as a first impression.)

Scenarios #9 — You’re emailing and texting during a boring meeting. You’re not fooling anyone. Stop emailing and texting during the meeting. If it’s urgent, walk out and respond. If the meeting is optional and boring, stop attending optional and boring meetings. If the meeting is mandatory and boring, privately offer the facilitator your specific feedback.

Scenario #10 — Finally, you don’t want “it” in writing. You might be out of luck. There are video cameras and audio recorders on all smartphones. I disagree with the theory that you should call or meet face-to-face to avoid putting “something” in writing. If you act with integrity and do the right thing, it doesn’t matter if you say it or write it.

I just scratched the surface with scenarios. Don’t leave three missed calls, one voicemail, two texts and an email! Choose one option, initially.   Trust me, they’ll get the message.

Take a deep breath and remember one simple thing, think before you call, email, or send a text

ACTION: As you utilize your own phone and computer, you should direct and manage the behaviors that you prefer to see for phone calls, emails, and texts.  What would your responses (or that of your teams’) look like for each scenario?  What alternate scenarios would you add?

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