Email vs. Telephone: Which to Use and When
Email, texting and collaborative messaging platforms are ubiquitous in today's business world. Sometimes, however, it's better to pick up the telephone. If you have found yourself wrapped up in digital-only communication, here is why and when you should opt for a real-time phone call.
Pros and Cons of Each
There are some obvious advantages to sending someone an email. You can send quick, simple messages, without getting caught up in small talk or lengthy conversations. You can also message multiple people at once, while allowing recipients to respond at their leisure with more thoughtful input.
On the other hand, emails also come with some disadvantages. For one, it's much easier to ignore or overlook an email, compared to a phone call. Urgency and tone of voice are also lost within emails. Emails can also consume valuable time with back-and-forth messages that could have been handled with a quick phone conversation.
Just like emails, phone calls have their pros and cons. On the positive side, they are ideal for building relationships and explaining complex ideas. Unfortunately, they also require more time, can disrupt workflow, and typically demand a quiet space.
When a Phone Call Is Better
Whether it’s through text or email, modern business people prefer to communicate without having to slow down and pick up the phone. In certain instances, however, phone calls are a much more effective communication strategy. Some good examples include:
When you anticipate many questions: Some topics are too complex for an inefficient email back-and-forth. If you believe you will need to answer questions or explain key concepts, a real-time phone conversation is best. In some cases, you can also send a pre-call email outlining the topic to help streamline a scheduled phone conversation.
When emotion is a factor: If you are dealing with anger, frustration or hurt feelings, a phone call is always the better option. You never want to apologize via email. Since people often misinterpret emotions and attitudes when reading email or text, you shouldn't use them to discuss sensitive topics. You should also avoid engaging in arguments via email or text.
When you've taken a while to respond: If you've overlooked an email, it's best to pick up the phone to apologize and address the sender's concerns. This is the best way to reestablish trust that future emails will not be treated the same way.
When it's timely: If you need an answer now, you shouldn't send an email. In an effort to stay productive, most professionals resist checking their email while they are engaged in important projects. This means your message might sit in someone's inbox for a long time, especially if you send it before lunch or near the end of the day. If you need a quick response, pick up the phone and get the information you want without waiting.
While most business people regard email as a godsend, it can hinder relationship building and - in some cases - harm productivity. While appropriate for many interactions, digital communication should never be a crutch, no matter how busy your schedule gets.