In two recent cases (one with a business partner, another with a client), in email after email, I could not impress upon the other party how important getting on the phone was to getting an issue resolved. Even though each message I sent implored them to call me, or tell me when I could call them, they ignored the request and continued to try to go back and forth on quite complicated topics. No matter how carefully I responded, this repeatedly caused misunderstandings. In the end, both conversations were resolved with a short phone call but only after hours of typing. This was a massive waste of time and more importantly, in both cases, entailed possibly damaging confusion.
I am a huge fan of the written word. I think 9 times out of 10, maybe 99 times out of 100, written communication is faster and clearer than attempting to get verbal/aural bandwith from an audience (i.e. speaking to them). Whether it is texting, email, various feed systems (e.g. Facebook and Slack) or other alternative communication methods, I always think first to sending a written message.
However, there are vitally important types of communication that require fast, nuanced, flexible verbal conversation.
For both clarity and efficiency purposes, you must develop an active awareness of what form of communication best fits particular situations. Whether interacting personally (with friends or family) or professionally (with co-workers, vendors or clients), knowing when to request a call, and complying when a call is requested, is key to maintaining excellent lines of communication and joint understanding.
I would offer two pieces of advice:
1) Do NOT ignore a request for a call…. If someone asks for a telephone call… then call… They didn’t write that down for fun. If they say, “Can you answer these questions AND can you call me?” do not reinterpret that as “Can you answer these questions OR can you call me?” You need to call if asked to call.
2) Do NOT play along with others ignoring your request for a call…. Trust yourself. Don’t let them string you out into an extended email Q&A. You can address their questions and ask for a call, but if they just shoot back more questions, send a reply that ONLY mentions the phone call request. Don’t die on that hill if they ignore you again, but use your best judgment on how hard you can push for the call.
In the first case, you are showing attention and respect by fully understanding their message. In the second, you are saving yourself and the other person a large amount of time and aggravation by convincing them to pick up the phone. As in many areas of our lives and in business, resisting others when they try to dictate ill-conceived actions or ideas is a foundational ability. Finding respectful ways to redirect and persuade in the face of perceived error, is critical to your own success and to your capacity to assist others.