Who else besides me jumps out of their skin when the phone rings? It’s pretty much NEVER a good time for me to answer the phone. I’m ALWAYS in the middle of doing SOMETHING, whether it be working, spending time with someone, sleeping, eating, driving, exercising, watching TV, reading, or relaxing.
I’ve noticed, though, that it’s also pretty much never a good time for ME to call YOU! You are either not home, and I have to leave a message, or I am calling you on your cell and you are in the middle of working, spending time with someone, sleeping, eating, driving, exercising, watching TV, reading, or relaxing. By the way, I beg of you not to answer my call if you are driving, or eating with other people in a noisy restaurant. Seriously?
To those who say that calling is always better than emailing, I say: Better for whom? If I call with a quick question, and you actually answer, and we resolve the issue with minimal chit chat, then great! But how often does that happen? If I have to leave you a phone message, I might as well have written you an email, no? At least that way you can answer it thoughtfully, at your leisure, and we’ll both have a record of the exchange. Introverts are often more comfortable expressing themselves in writing. I know I am. What about you?
Yes, of course, it depends on the nature and urgency of the topic! Even so, I prefer texting for quick confirmations and such. And, yes, emails can get lost in cyberspace and overlooked in over-stuffed email inboxes. But so can phone messages. Sometimes your voice mail box is full and I can’t leave a message anyway! At least if I haven’t heard back from you via email I can re-send the message and ask, “Did this get lost in cyberspace?” This gives you an easy out and allows us to continue the conversation where we left off. If it were an urgent matter I would have called.
Since it’s hardly possible to be functional and social today without a phone, here are my tips for introverts who aren’t crazy about them:
- Turn your ringer off. Yes really. Why not? Especially while you’re trying to focus on something. I suggest this to clients as a productivity technique. This is why God created Caller ID and Voice Mail! You may disagree, but I say that even if you have little kids in school you can turn your ringer off for an hour to work on an important project. Most likely, nothing will happen during that time. If something does happen at the school, your kid will be taken care of until you check your messages and get yourself over there. They don’t know what you were doing, and you don’t have to tell them, either. You DO have to check your messages and get back to people, though.
- Adjust your ringer. If you can’t bring yourself to turn it off, set it to vibrate or find a gentler ringtone (or a louder one, if that’s what you really need). At home I have those cordless phones that come in a set. I select one to ring, and turn the rest of them off, especially the one I’m most often sitting right next to.
- Schedule your calls. I’m using a scheduling tool called TimeTrade. It’s great! Anyone can schedule time with me, be it a paid in-person organizing session, a coffee date, or a phone call. I decide how much time per week I want to devote to such activities and make myself available when the time comes. I have a scheduling page on my website, but I can also invite someone to schedule a call, inserting the TimeTrade link, via email. Can you call me without scheduling? Of course you can But scheduling reduces phone tag and ensures that I will be available to talk with you at the appointed time. [September 2020 update: TimeTrade worked for me for a long time. Then I switched technologies — phone and computer operating systems — and started having problems. Things change so fast in tech-land that I would not predict that YOU would have a problem, which is why I’m not describing my tech issue in detail. But you should know that I’ve been using Acuity lately. Check them both out!]
- Batch your calls. If you have multiple calls to make – schedule a medical appointment, ask a billing question, return a call, confirm a lunch date with a friend, etc. — decide when you’re going to make them and make them all at once to get them over with. Gather the pertinent info into a “To Call” folder so it’s handy when the time comes. Allow yourself extra time for annoying automated phone systems and long wait times. Grab a cup of coffee and make yourself comfortable. Or, if you are nervous about making calls, try making them standing up. I make notes about what I want to remember to say or ask, and stand at my kitchen counter with the notes in front of me. It also helps to keep the calls short!
- How does your phone sound? One of my phone issues is sound quality. I’m getting older, so my hearing is starting to be a candidate for suspicion, but I’m pretty sure the real problem here is that newer technology, while clever and ubiquitous, has inferior sound quality. Not to mention crummy and dropped signals. If the call is scheduled in advance I have a better chance of using the phone I prefer, in a location where I am comfortable talking, and I’ll have my ear buds handy.
- You don’t have to give everyone your cell phone number. Well, if you’ve given up your landline you might. In my case, the whole world has my home number because I am self employed and it is published on my business cards, website, etc. But only a handful of people have my cell phone number. I try to make them understand that my phone is always on “silent”, and that I rarely use it for actual talking but they sometimes forget. That’s OK as long as I check my messages and get back to them.
- Humor them. If you have clients (or family, or friends) who REALLY prefer a phone call over an email, and you REALLY want to work with them (or maintain a relationship with them), by all means give them a call. Otherwise, do it your way. Email, snail mail, no mail… Why can’t THEY get used to email? That’s what I’d like to know!
What are YOUR best phone tips?
Please share with us in the comments!
Hazel Thornton is a professional organizer and genealogist based in Albuquerque, New Mexico; creator of The Clutter Flow Chart Collection; and author of Go with the Flow! The Clutter-Clearing Tool Kit for an Organized Life. Visit her online at www.org4life.com.