It is almost 2020 and technology plays a very significant role in the way we communicate. This is of course true both as consumers and as business people. While communication is of course at the core of business, it can also become your biggest pain point if not done in an efficient manner. Phone calls, for example, unless scheduled, and can be a real time suck and are mostly unnecessary in the era of digital communication.

Voice messaging, aka sending someone a recording of your voice, as opposed to sending them a regular text message, can be helpful when appropriate, but can also be incredibly annoying and intrusive if used wrong or too often.

So when is it effective to use voice and when it is annoying?

First, as always, think about your audience.

This is a very general rule of thumb and it applies across the board with communication and beyond. Whatever you are doing now, however you are about to communicate, think of the person on the other end.

If the person, for example, is in a meeting, perhaps sending them 10 messages one after the other is not a great idea? Think how that is then received on their end. Good chance they have notifications enabled on their end, maybe even sound. One message, one notification can be ignored and that person can go on with their meeting. 10? Not so much.

Voice messages require the person to listen, which means they need to stop their meeting to engage. A simple "Are you in the middle of something or is it ok to send a voice note?" would suffice. 

Always think of the audience.

Are you prioritizing your time over mine?

On a deeper level, when you call me out of the blue, and again, we are talking in a business context, not talking to you, mom, you are in essence saying "I want to talk now and I don't care what you're doing because I want to talk now, so stop and answer."

Voice notes are no different. I can't simply read it and choose to ignore or engage. Yes, I can ignore the message or the call completely but in my opinion, that is both rude on my part, and also, not very responsible since it might be something important that I actually need to know in a timely manner.

If you text, I can read your message while finishing the article I was writing and choose to respond after. If you send a voice note or call, I have to stop what I am doing to listen or answer. So yes, you are basically prioritizing your time over mine and that is not ok. Don't steal other people's time, communicate like it is almost 2020 and be considerate.

Is this a casual conversation or something that requires my full attention?

Now, to be clear, I sound like I am anti-voice messages. Anyone who has ever talked to me on WhatsApp knows that is not the case. If the specific scenario I am in is appropriate and the conversation requires you to hear my tone, voice messages can be very effective.

The important point here is that, like most things, voice messages can be great if used appropriately and not abused.

If you want to say hi to someone or tell them you are thinking about them, a one sentence text can do the job, no need to send a voice note for that.

In general, this is all very simple and should be common sense, which as we all know is not very common today. 

When choosing your form of communication, don't only take your needs and convenience into account, think of the person with whom you are communicating as well. Is that so difficult?

Also, if you are thinking right now, "Wow, all these rules, this guy needs to relax a little", well, you are probably right, but when you get a lot of messages throughout the day (which we all do.) and it affects your productivity, the way we communicate needs to be discussed.

Published on: Nov 12, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.