Picking up the telephone can be key to creating a valuable conversation
I heard Whoopi Goldberg interviewed on the radio today. There was a discussion about this long period of her life where she and Oprah Winfrey each thought the other hated them! It wasn’t until they found themselves at the same party and had a conversation that they realized that neither had a single issue with the other, it had all been other people’s opinion and gossip. Oprah said to Whoopi, “I wish I had just picked up the phone.”
This weekend I read an advice column in the newspaper. A person – “Jack” – wrote in to ask advice on how to handle a delicate situation with a group of friends. They were planning a group trip and one of the couples wanted to invite their adult children along.
The couple with adult children emailed the group to see what others thought. Jack hadn’t liked the idea and had written back that he “preferred that the children not come.”
The couple with children responded by asking, “do you not prefer or not want them to come?”
While it’s an interesting situation, what I liked the most about this advice piece is that the advice columnist suggested the writer close his computer and pick up the phone to resolve the situation.
Email has transformed my life. I was an early adopter and always get a lot done with email. I have also learned of the terrible waste that I can cause when I don’t use it properly.
And I now believe that while email has sped up many conversations, it’s also created a new way for people to say things that they shouldn’t and at the same time has prevented people from having the hard conversations in the most productive way.
Email is great for sharing information and coordinating action. It doesn’t require all parties to be present at the same time. However, it is a very sterile medium. Texting, while very efficient, is a more timely and essential form of email. It has less tone, less context and is superb for coordinating immediate action.
Today I attempt to practice the following rule of thumb:
The more difficult or complex the conversation, the more I need to engage the other person.
A phone call brings a lot to the conversation:
In person or via video calls add the ability to read body language and facial expressions. Both are very critical as the conversation gets more challenging!
I doubt Oprah and Whoopi could have successfully cleared up their issue via email or text, however a phone call would have resolved it in a few minutes!