I used to love talking on the phone. When I was in high school my parents frequently complained of the hours I would spend curled up in the phone nook in the hallway of our home. I always raced to answer the phone when it rang. And I was devastated if I wasn’t the one to answer it. In my teenage years there was little more exciting than finding out who was going to be on the other end of the call. Would it be that boy I had a crush on? Usually it wasn’t. 🙁
This love affair continued for years. With the phone. Not the boy.
I’m not really sure when it ended.
Now I look at my ringing phone and quite often think ugh.
In my first couple of “real” out-of-uni jobs the phone rang incessantly. These were practically pre-email days and for most of our clients the fastest way to get in touch was to telephone the office. And they did. Endlessly. I reckon I spent three hours a day on the phone. At least.
Today my phone is just as an essential tool in my working arsenal of things that make my life easier. However today it is rarely used to talk to people with my voice.
I talk to people over twitter, Facebook and snapchat. Not always in that order.
I take photos, surf the web, check my email. Listen to podcasts, catch up on the news and occasionally read a bit more of that book I just couldn’t put down.
And today, when the phone rings I instantly look to see who is calling. If it’s not that
cute boy valued client then I just don’t answer it. Actually, a lot of the time I don’t answer when it is that valued client. And they are OK with that. Because when I first meet my clients and start working with them, I tell them upfront that I rarely answer my phone.
And they are OK with this because I explain that answering the phone is a distraction, and that I want to stay focused on the piece of work I’m doing. Little annoys me more than when people answer the phone and then say “oh, I can’t talk right now”. Then WHY, for the love of all things cheese, WHY DID YOU ANSWER THE BLOODY THING??”.
While I don’t tend to answer the phone when it rings, I do return calls promptly. If I can’t for some reason, then I send a text to say thanks for your message, I’ll call when I’m out of a meeting, the next day or whatever is appropriate. When I’m overseas I change my voice mail to ask people to email as I’m overseas and not using my phone until I’m home on whatever the date may be.
6 reasons why I don’t answer the phone
1. Answering the phone is a total distraction.
I keep my phone on silent most of the day, because, let’s face it, it is a distraction. It chirps, buzzes, dings and rings constantly despite my best efforts to turn of sounds and reminders. OK, not all sounds and reminders. I need my calendar reminders. And snapchat. I really love snapchat.
Every time the phone makes a sound I lose focus on what I’m doing. Because I check it to see why it made a noise. And it normally takes me 10-15 minutes to get back in the work zone once I’ve lost focus. My time is worth money that I bill my clients for. The more a ringing phone distracts me, the longer it takes me to do their work. Which means it costs them more.
2. I don’t know who is on the other end of the phone
My how times have changed! No longer do I have that teenage thrill of finding out who is on the other end of the phone. We can thank telemarketers for THAT. My address book has well over 1,000 contacts in it. I save the numbers of the vast majority of the people who phone me. Yes, even the pesky telemarketers. They have their special category of “dodgy spammy ignore”. So if a number I don’t recognise or a blocked number comes up, it’s even less likely I will answer it.
3. I have other priorities
I really hate the word busy, but I do generally have a lot going on. Which means I don’t usually have the time for chit-chat during the day. I’m also a planner and I like to plan my day. This includes the time I spend on the phone. If you want a social call, then you can expect me to combine it with exercise – either when I’m out for a walk or, if I’m home, expect to hear me walking up and down the hallway. Those 10,000 steps a day don’t walk themselves you know.
4. I like to get things in writing
This is the conference organiser in me coming out. “Please put all your changes and requests in writing”. I must have said that 37 times a day when organising conferences. Especially when delegates wanted to change their accommodation or their flights or tell us their audio visual requirements.
I really like email. I don’t like how many junky/spammy ones I get, but when it’s from a client, prospective client or a supplier, I really, really like it. It means I can think about my answer to a question rather than just give it off the cuff. It means I can think about whether I want to do that piece of work and what it might cost rather than answering those questions in a quick phone call. It means I can confirm what people want IN WRITNG so there is no cause for confusion down the track.
Chances are, if we have a phone call or a meeting outlining a body or work or a detailed conversation, I will send an email confirming what was said and any actions and key dates. It’s good business practice to follow up a phone call with an email. Especially if one of you has a bad memory or likes to “forget” key parts of a conversation. Conversations about money should ALWAYS be followed up in writing. Trust me. I’ve learnt that one the hard way.
If you want to ask me a question that will require me to have some thinking time, please email me. If it’s urgent, send me a text to let me know.
5. Other people are around me
I hate talking on the phone in a public place when other people are around me. Largely because I really hate listening to other people on the phone. A phone call should be private.
Also, I have confidentially agreements in place with all my clients. Talking to one of them on the phone would technically place me in breach of some of the more strict agreements. Discussing sensitive matters over the phone in public would definitely place me in breach. Consider that the next time you take a work call on the train.
6. I’m an introvert
Sometimes I just don’t want to talk to people. It’s not about you, it’s me. Definitely me. As an introvert there are only so many hours of the day/week/month I can cope with people. If I’ve hit my quota when you call, then voice mail you will get. Regardless of who you are. Believe me, that’s better than having me answer and being grumpy and short with you. Because, people.
What about you? Do you answer the phone when it rings? If not, why?