An entire generation of professionals has grown up surrounded by mobile and Internet communication, which leads one to question whether the telephone is still relevant today. Most office workstations continue to feature the telephone alongside a laptop, but how do people, especially Millennial workers, relate to it?
Young professionals leading from the technology front claim that the telephone has outgrown its purpose because several other technologies that offer richer and more convenient communication have emerged. The mobile phone, chat applications and videoconferencing are some of them. In other sectors where technology is not the driving force behind operations, the telephone still holds some relevance. In fact, we argue that professionals should be using the telephone more regularly than the current practice. There are several reasons and benefits from taking to this practice.
But first, it is important to identify the reasons why people are so quick to dismiss the telephone and adopt other modes of communication. The most obvious reason is that the telephone creates anxiety. When dialing a number, one is never sure of whether the call will be received at the other end. If it is received, how will the person at the other end respond to the caller, especially if it is a cold call? Another reason for the fear associated with the telephone is that telephone calls eventually lead to some kind of commitment being made. Investing the time and effort in making a telephone call becomes unnecessary if nothing tangible comes out of it. Sending a Watsapp message or SMS does not involve such high stakes since it takes a few taps of the finger and some seconds to complete the conversation.
Given that the younger generation is less enthusiastic about engaging in oral communication with another person, let’s come to the reasons why the telephone is still a good choice for workplace communication.
Basically, telephone communication builds and indicates confidence and commitment. It is a way of telling the other person how serious you are about pursuing the matter and achieving a tangible outcome from the conversation. It is more difficult for someone to ignore or forget a telephone conversation than it is to ignore a text message or email.
There’s a bit of psychology involved here as well. Think about your feelings when an email you sent hasn’t been responded to for over a week. You don’t feel that bad about it, after all. Now think about being cut short in the middle of a telephone conversation, or worse, being hung up or dismissed by a curt rejection. Rejection tastes bad, doesn’t it? Well, too few people nowadays know how to accept rejection graciously and move on. This is not something you learn by relying exclusively on text-based communication. You make a request by investing yourself personally; you put your most polite self forward; and you are rejected. What do you do? Be glad you made the effort, pick up the pieces, move on, and allow your confidence to be healed and strengthened. For you will need it as you progress in your career.
Let’s compare the telephone with videoconferencing. Videoconferencing exposes you too much; in fact, more than necessary is what I would say, especially if this is the first interaction with the other person. Videoconferencing allows the other person to assess you along a whole range of cues, including your body language, posture, facial expressions, and clothes. The telephone gives you more privacy while still being engaged in a one-to-one conversation. You can take notes, scratch your eyebrow and even roll your eyes during a telephone conversation. Imagine doing that during a conference call; simply not possible.
So how do we as young, self-conscious newbies with fragile egos take the leap to become more personally invested with the person at the other end of the telephone line? Answering these simple questions might help. The next time you need to send someone a message, ask yourself why not use the telephone instead of an email or SMS message. Is it because you fear rejection from the other person? Are you nervous about opening up and exposing yourself to the other person? If yes, then this might be the best opportunity to overcome those fears and grab the telephone receiver. The only way to overcome the fear of rejection is to experience it once and learn that it is no big deal after all.
Asking some more questions can be of help too. Sometimes, professionals feel anxious about making a telephone call because the conversation can hold them up to scrutiny. If you haven’t thought through your proposal or request and have sketchy ideas about the issue, then this will become evident a few minutes into the conversation. Over email, your lack of knowledge can be concealed much more easily. This is another opportunity to do your homework and be thoroughly prepared to answer any questions the other person might have. It will make you a more competent professional, if nothing else.
A telephone call signifies to the other person that you are ready to be confronted and are prepared with all the necessary information. It also conveys that you are serious about the matter at hand and are ready to pull it through to the next level. It is also a great way to develop your people and communication skills, which are mandatory for becoming a successful professional and learning more about your industry through oral conversations.