Send an Email or Pick Up the Phone? How to Decide & Tips

puppy - post version

No, no, I didn’t actually mean that I despise everything about you and the work you do! I was joking! Please stop crying. Please?

At a time when there are so many avenues for online communication — from email, Facebook and Twitter, to instant messaging, chat rooms, and texting — it’s vital that you not only pay attention to what you say, but how and where you say it.

As a highly acerbic person, I can tell you from experience that the drily sarcastic (and brilliant) joke you just typed may not go over so well in written form. Giving careful thought to the how and why of your communications plays an important role in maintaining healthy professional relationships.

Send an Email

Sending an email isn’t always the fastest way to say something. Sometimes, I spend more time drafting an email than I would in a phone call communicating the same information. That may be partly because I’m a wordsmith by trade; but also because emails that contain a lot of information deserve a higher level of curation.

In general, sending an email means you want to do one or more of the following:

  • Communicate concrete information
  • Send attachments
  • Document the conversation

Pro Tips:

  • Keep the content of your email focused on a specific topic — try to avoid brain dumping everything under the sun, if possible. Use bullet points and short paragraphs to break up information into easily digestible pieces.
  • The CC line should be used only for including people who need to follow the email conversation, but who are not expected to reply.
  • Use the subject line wisely: convey the gist of your email and/or its need for action/urgency. (Eg. Creative Brief for tomorrow’s presentation — need your input)

Pick Up the Phone

We’ve become so type-centric in business, people often forget that picking up the phone is sometimes the smartest strategy. In general, it’s probably better to make a phone call if the situation meets one or more of the following criteria:

  • You need a question answered right away
  • There’s potential for conflict or confusion that you want to defuse
  • You want to hammer out an idea or strategy fast

Pro Tips:

  • To help get quick feedback while on the phone, use a screen-sharing application to allow for even clearer communication.
  • When leaving a voicemail, always follow up with an email letting the person know that you’ve contacted them. You’ll get their attention faster if it’s urgent, and you’ll have documentation of your efforts.
  • Have a notebook handy to write down notes and thoughts, and don’t be ashamed to ask for a few seconds to jot something down. The person on the line will always appreciate that you’re taking the time to be accurate.

A Few Tips on Phone Etiquette

Pictured: the typical response of a millennial to a ringing phone.

Pictured: the typical response of a millennial to a ringing phone.

Now, just a few notes about answering the phone, since it can be a little bit of a pain point for the average millennial.

Answering the phone with vim and vigor (yes, that’s a thing) isn’t the easiest trick to remember. However outdated it sometimes seems, it’s important and simple to have good phone answering skills.

You can safely assume anyone taking the time to pick up the phone wants three things from you:

  • Your full, undivided attention
  • Immediate feedback
  • A friendly interaction

One thing I learned a long time ago was to never give away that you know who’s calling. Regardless of who it is, I answer in the same fashion, usually with one of the following salutations:

Good [morning/afternoon], glassCanopy, this is Daniel.

[Morning/afternoon], this is glassCanopy, Daniel speaking.

After the customary pleasantries, I always let my phone compatriot get to the meat of the conversation by asking a variation on the same question:

How can I help you?

Asking that question (or a variation on it) lets them get to the three things they want from me without hassle or fuss.

Remember: one form of communication isn’t better or worse than the other. Both email and phone have their time and place. It’s all about picking the correct way to communicate what you need to say to get the results you want — like laughs at your awesome jokes.

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