When in doubt, don't call

by Volker Weber


My mobile contract contains 100 'free' minutes. This month I have used 2 (two). I simply don't call anyone. Instead I use email.

If you have received email from me, you have seen this footer. I treat all email like SMS text messages. It takes less time to write them, and more importantly, it takes less time to read them. They always fit on a single screen. Quoted text is always below, so you don't have to read anything that you already know. I can easily work through hundreds of these messages a day. Always in bulk, always when otherwise idle.

As a general rule I never stop what I am doing, if a phone rings or an email comes in. My work requires concentration. If I fall out of 'the zone', I may need hours to get back in. How do I avoid falling out? I like to put my phone in silent mode. And if I am not working? Well, how do you figure that out before you call? If you do call, and I can Google the answer for you, you should feel embarrassed.

While I don't call much, I travel around the world to meet people in person. Or invite them to come here. When we meet, there will be no interruption. The person in front of me is always more important than the person who calls.

When in doubt, do write. http://five.sentenc.es/ or less.


"My mobile contract contains 100 'free' minutes. This month I have used 2 (two)."
That's how they sell you nothing...

Marcus Humann, 2014-02-09 15:43

This has always worked flawlessly for you and me. I am always amazed how quickly you reply and I always try to reduce the messages to the essence.

For not close friends, calling is rather impolite, as it requires full concentration, here and now.

Regarding tariffs, this is, why I switched to Congstar some time ago. They sell me 1GB of data. For minutes and SMS I pay 10 cents. Fertig :)

Hubert Stettner, 2014-02-09 20:15

Seems I know completely different people. In my work universe (European politics) , emails are quite often not answered, unless I follow up with a call. Then I am asked: "can you please sent the mail again - I will then answer it .... that's easier than searching for it". Following that procedure, I get an answer.

The last two sentences in your post seem most crucial to me. In person meetings are always more important than calls or mail. General rule!

Thomas Nowak, 2014-02-09 21:30

Die größte Unhöflichkeit ist schon immer gewesen, wenn man bei jemandem im Büro sitzt, das Telefon klingelt und man wird plötzlich nachrangig behandelt. Ich lasse es mir gefallen, wenn derjenige einen wirklich wichtigen Anruf erwartet, aber man kann den Anrufenden normalerweise genauso warten lassen, wie er es dann mit mir macht. Früher war es ein Problem, daß man nicht sieht, wer anruft und es deshalb schwer ist, zurück zu rufen. Aber heutzutage? Und wer seine Rufnummer unterdrückt hat, soll es eben nochmal versuchen - wenn es wichtig ist, wird es es auf jeden Fall tun.

Jürgen Keller, 2014-02-10 11:33

I have had the same experience with my wife, who is a salesperson. She thrives on interruptions, apparently, and I had to spend quite some time explaining to her the concept of the 'the zone'.

I can immediately follow Volker's point of view, and presumably one can generalize that everybody has a 'preferred method of communication'. For instance: older managers sometimes react very well to a written letter, spending a lot of time crafting an answer, and will disregard an e-mail. I imagine that the youth of today would respond more to a whatsapp sms.

And I wholeheartedly agree with Volker's statement of 'meeting people face-to-face'. Rationally it's difficult to explain, but there are so many subtle body language issues happening. I always find the business relationship to be far better once I've met someone.

Andrew Magerman, 2014-02-10 13:37

I'm convinced that most people, most of the time, don't read beyond the first sentence of an email, never mind the fifth.

How often have I had a lengthy email exchange with someone, who still ends up asking me for a phone number? Every email I send out (and I write pretty efficiently I think) has landline and mobile numbers, as well as a web address in the signature - and their eye never took them that far.

Nick Daisley, 2014-02-10 18:31

As with everything, you compete for attention. The trick is to make somebody curious in your first sentence and then don't let them get off the hook. If they can see the end of the email from the top, you are more likely to keep them engaged.

Volker Weber, 2014-02-10 18:39

Of course that's true, Volker - but if they have already exchanged a few emails with me, they must already be hooked!

They just aren't reading beyond the first couple of lines of each communication: they seem to be striving for super-efficiency, and thereby becoming less effective.

Nick Daisley, 2014-02-10 19:02

What I wonder is how you, personally, are using salutation and greeting with this paradigm? When you say "like SMS", is it just "Hi" in the beginning and -Volker at the end? Or even none at all?

Bernhard Werner, 2014-02-11 08:23

None at all with people I know well. A formal salutation for everybody else.

Volker Weber, 2014-02-11 17:16

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