- Next trainer development cohort 10th - 14th June 2024

Do You Over-Rely On Email? Here’s When To Pick Up The Phone

2nd October, 2019

Do You Over-Rely On Email? Here’s When To Pick Up The Phone

Grab a cup of coffee – it’s confession time:


I didn’t really talk on the telephone until I was 18 years old.


I’d always been pretty confident in person but the phone for some reason terrified me.


As I got older it became a big problem for my social life. (This was pre-email so it got tricky arranging to meet my friends at the park for a warm Diamond White cider and a Silk Cut Light).


Eventually, little by little, I forced myself to use the phone. By the time I got to university I was ok with it.


These days, I spend a lot of time on the phone in my business.


You can build a personal connection with clients and colleagues much faster than you can over email.


I find my clients appreciate me taking time to make a call – it’s a personal touch that makes a big difference.


But when I look around in the business world I see lots of teenage Kims – nervous about picking up the phone in case they ‘bother’ someone.


We tend to over-rely on email and underuse the phone.


As a result, we often miss out on opportunities, fighting for supremacy in people’s inboxes when we could cut right through to the person we want to speak to.


Of course email can be a brilliant method of communication, but it shouldn’t always be our default.


So when should we pick up the phone? Here are a few ideas to get you thinking:


  1. When you’ve sent more than one ‘chasing’ email asking someone for something. The recipient has likely read and received your email but is either too busy to reply or there’s something stopping them that they aren’t telling you. Either way, the phone is a great way to cut to the chase and get what you need.
  2. When someone’s sent you a negative or critical email. An email reply often adds petrol to the fire. Picking up the phone at this point can make an enormous difference and often illicits an apology from the other person rather than a confrontation (try it!).
  3. When your email is turning into a Netflix mini-series or it’s taking you hours to write. If you’re trying to communicate very complex information, ask yourself if a quick call would speed things up. 10 mins on the phone might persuade them more easily than your War and Peace email (that they probably won’t even read).
  4. When you’ve really screwed up. Saying ‘I’m sorry’ is generally best done face to face or over the phone. Emails give the impression of avoidance and an inauthentic apology goes across badly.
  5. When someone phones you a lot. I have a client who rarely emails and instead phones me, as she feels it gets things done quicker (she’s right). So, I make an effort to ring her as much as possible instead of emailing. It’s clearly her preferred way of doing business AND it cements our relationship with every call.


So tell me – do you have a phone phobia? Or do you have rules on when you use email vs. the phone?

University of Cambridge


- Next trainer development cohort 10th - 14th June 2024

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