If email and text messaging had been invented first, the telephone would be considered the most remarkable, fantastic invention. Think about it. With the telephone, you can pick up a small object and press a few buttons and instantly talk with someone down the block, across the country, or on the other side of the world. Just by how they answer the phone, you can often tell if they are happy or sad, rushed or relaxed, awake or asleep (at least until the phone rang). It’s almost as if you were there with the person you’re talking to.
We like email and text messaging because they are quick and easy forms of communication. We can make our points or ask our questions succinctly, and we don’t have to engage in small talk with the other person. Sometimes we even send email and text messages so we can avoid talking to the other person. Email and, to a lesser extent, text messaging have revolutionized how we conduct business. But it is not always for the better.
Sometimes disputes arise and deals fall through because someone sends an email or a text message when they could have picked up the phone and called. Email and text messages do not convey tone or nuance. The same words that come across as confrontational or insulting in an email or text message can come across as friendly and polite when conveyed over the phone and you hear the speaker’s voice.
In negotiations, speaking with someone over the phone allows you to pick up on verbal leaks and gain valuable information that you can’t get from an email or text message. Did the person pause before rejecting your offer and perhaps even sigh while doing so? That might mean rejecting your offer was not easy to do. That could be valuable information. And you can’t get that from an email or text message.
Phone conversations also allow for instantaneous follow up, something that is often missing from email and text messages, and something that can be very important for closing a deal. Shark Tank is a popular television show where aspiring entrepreneurs seek investments for their businesses. The presentations and negotiations on the show are done face-to-face, but they wouldn’t be much different if they were conducted over the phone. Now think how different the show would be if the entrepreneurs negotiated with the sharks on the show by email and text message. Besides being less compelling television, fewer deals would get done.
Email and text messaging are great technologies. But sometimes it’s better to pick up the phone if you want to avoid a dispute or close a deal.