Indeed the speed and convenience of electronic communications are fabulous. I would not want to return to previous eras where the options were much more limited.
But there are times when you should call someone instead of writing them. I probably email and text more than I should. It fits my introverted personality not to have to talk with someone. But written communications often can be misconstrued and misunderstood. In many cases, I would have fared better with a telephone call.
I could write a separate and compelling article on the advantages of writing over calling. You don't have to coordinate a time for both parties to get together. You can proofread your words before you send them. And you have a clear record of exactly what was said when you have it in writing.
But there are times that a phone call is more appropriate. It would be difficult to establish rules and guidelines for calling. Instead, I offer four advantages of calling over writing. You can determine when you should use those advantages as you communicate with others.
-- Written communication does not always make emotions clear. Even with the availability of a wide range of emoticons (which I try to avoid), the written word cannot fully replace the inflections of the voice, the pauses, and the emphases that are readily detectible by phone. I recently received a text message from someone close to me. I admit that my feelings were hurt when I read the message. Later that day, I called that person to clarify what he said. Once I heard his voice and laughter, I knew that I had taken his written communication wrongly.
-- Written communication can appear cowardly. With few exceptions, I first communicate bad news in person or by phone. I do not want to appear to be avoiding talking with that person. I want him or her to hear clearly what I'm saying and why I'm saying it. Sometimes it's easier to send an email than to make a call because you don't have to face that person. But that doesn't make it right.
-- Written communication does not allow for instant dialogue. I know. Messaging was originally called instant messaging because one party could respond immediately to another party. Indeed such is the case today. But talking in person or by phone is even more instantaneous. You don't have to wait for the person to complete his or her thought. You can get immediate clarification even while a person is in mid-sentence or mid-thought. And while interruptions are not always best, they can be used wisely so that any misunderstanding can be cleared immediately.
-- Written communication does not carry the investment of one's self as a call does. How many times have you heard someone say that they appreciate your call? Communicating by voice gives the impression, rightly so, that you took time to find that person, to say your words, and to allow them to respond immediately. Calling simply shows that you care.
I fully expect that I will continue to use written electronic communication as my dominant means of connecting with people. But I hope that I will use wisdom to know that sometimes a call is better; sometimes a call carries a lot more weight.
Sure, it's not always easy to connect with someone by phone. It may take a while to reach them, and the conversation may go longer than you would like. But in all likelihood, the person you called will appreciate your making the effort more than they would had you texted or emailed them.
As a result, relationships will be better with family members, business associates, friends and even foes. Then we will know that the extra effort to make that call was really worth it.
Thom S. Rainer is president of LifeWay Christian Resources. This column first appeared at ThomRainer.com.
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