There are some topics that will always stir up controversy and kick off a great conversation at a dinner party. iPhone or Android? Sports, parenting, politics, and much more. Phone calls and whether they are necessary is yet another example. Try it, tell your friends you prefer texting over calls. See how they react.
In reality though, if you put aside the emotional aspect and the fact that you are used to making calls because, well, that is what you are used to doing, think about it from an objective perspective. Do phone calls really make sense in a business setting?
There are exceptions, but not many.
Before we dive into the question of phone calls and their efficiency, let's just state for the record that there are exceptions to every rule. Family, friends, and emergencies, of course, but as stated above, I am referring specifically to the business world. So no one is telling you you can't call your son, daughter, mom, or dad.
Another exception is when the call is pre-scheduled. Sometimes, you can just get more done on the phone than you can by email. Having said that, if you feel that a business phone call is necessary, be respectful of people's time and schedule the call in advance.
Reach out by email and ask to set up a call. Put it on the calendar, and then, by all means, make the call.
However, putting those scenarios aside, there is no reason, need, or justification to pick up the phone and just call someone, especially someone you don't know in real life, and with whom you have not previously communicated. Allow me to explain why.
Don't be a thief.
Think about the following scenario. Michelle is in the middle of writing her analyst report on the future of transportation, and you want to pick her brain about your autonomous car startup, so you pick up the phone and call her.
Now, Michelle has a few options. She can ignore the call, yes, but there is something a bit obnoxious about letting that phone ring and simply ignoring it. Hanging up is obviously even less socially acceptable. Michelle can also text back saying "I cannot talk right now. Busy." Simple, right? Well, yes, but if you think about it, you just forced her to stop her work, her train of thought, and text you back. Why? Because you decided now is a good time to call Michelle. You decided.
That is the best-case scenario. Most people, myself included, upon receiving a call from an unknown number, answer. Why? Well, you know, family. Maybe it is an emergency. Maybe it is urgent. So you answer. I always answer calls from an unknown number, 100 percent of the time, no matter what I am doing.
In most cases, you quickly realize the call is not something you have time for at that moment. Michelle is busy focusing on her priorities right now, and by calling her, you not only distracted her from her work, but you effectively made your priority hers.
She has to now waste time either talking about your startup, or if she is comfortable being straightforward, explaining that she can't do this right now and asking you to message her and set up a time to talk.
You just stole Michelle's priorities, you stole her time. Instead you should have texted her and asked her when would be a good time for her to took.
We all multitask, so deal with it and be considerate.
When you pick up the phone to call someone unannounced, you are not taking their work flow into account. You are in essence declaring "Stop what you're doing. No, totally just stop. My need is more important, so stop and talk to me. Do it. Now." Whereas, when you text someone, they can continue their work, respond to your message when they're ready and get right back to what they were doing.
Also, the fact that we all multitask, and phone calls pretty much prevent us from doing that -- unless we continue working on a headset while we talk, which is rude because then we're not paying full attention -- is just another reason why most things in the business world are better done by texting or emailing.
Take scheduling a meeting, for example. Nothing is less effective than calling someone to schedule a meeting. Email me and I will check my calendar, suggest times, and we can lock it in. Calling me to schedule a meeting is counterintuitive and counterproductive.
Additionally, when you email someone about a business matter, that correspondence is easy to search and refer back to, while phone calls are a recipe for misunderstandings and miscommunications.
The bottom line is, there are many instances in our lives when phone calls are necessary and acceptable, but most business communication is not one of those instances.
And if you think I am alone on this, you might want to watch this Gary Vaynerchuk talk, and see how the audience responds to the question "Stand up if you get annoyed when another human being calls you."