By Bobby Calise
A former coworker of mine, Sam*, once told me a great story about her mom’s early experiences with texting. Sam’s mom, Janet, had a childhood friend whose own mother had passed away recently. Janet, very new to the idea of text messaging, thought it would be the perfect medium for passing along her sentiments without being too intrusive. She sent her friend a text along these lines:
“Donna-So sorry to hear about your mom. if there’s anything I can do to help, just let me know. LOL. Janet.”
When she told Sam what she had written, beaming about what a great job she had done with her nascent texting abilities, Sam was appalled. “What??? Mom why did you write LOL? Don’t know know what that means?”
Bewildered, Janet replied: “Yes! It means ‘lots of love.’”
Depending on your age and the tech savvy of your own parents, you probably have a few stories similar to Sam’s. My mom recently expressed agreement via text message with two carefully selected words: “tru dat.” My father once responded to an email I wrote him by calling me on my work phone three days later, saying that email is “too impersonal.” And, he even corrects me each time I say that I “texted” someone, insisting that the past tense of the word text is text, as in “I text you last week. Did you get it?”
And while watching your relatives learning how to use email, texting, blogs, Facebook, or Twitter is probably more painful than we’d like, I think they’re getting there. I’m willing to have more patience with my family and friends because, of course, I like them. But that patience doesn’t always translate to the office when time is, quite literally, money. One area I’m starting to lose patience with is voicemail.
I’ve had debates with coworkers for a while now about where voicemail fits into the way we receive information in the workplace. Sure, there’s no harm in picking up the phone and calling someone, exchanging a couple of niceties before getting down to the reason you’re calling. But is it really the most efficient way to send and receive information? What I’ve found is that when someone calls me to ask for something, they are putting the responsibility on me to ask the right questions on the fly, take notes, and then transform that conversation into exactly what they were hoping to receive in response.
Personally, I find a well-thought out email to be a much more valuable tool to me than a call. If done properly, an email lays out exactly what is needed, and if I forget a detail, I can always refer back to it. Rather than hoping I can glean everything I need from a phone call (or worse, replaying a voicemail two or three times), I have living proof of what was requested right there in an email. There’s no such proof after a phone call except for what you happened to scribble down on a piece of paper you may or may not have lost already.
Of course if a top-level executive stops by my desk and assigns me a project, I’m not going to say, “Sure thing, Bill, I’ll get right on that just as soon as you put it in an email.” But it might save me a little time if he had.
Ultimately it’s a little optimistic to ask that everyone in one’s social and professional circles is on the same page in terms of communication etiquette, but I can still hope. The good news is that if I do find myself on the wrong side of a communication mishap, I am already set with my response: “I text you last week. Did you get it?”
*All names have been changed.
By Bobby Calise
I’ve always enjoyed writing in some form or another. To prove it, I have a desk plaque my mom made up when I was just six years old that reads: Bobby Calise, Artist-Writer, 1988. And while I ultimately dropped the “Artist” part—which was based on hundreds of mediocre drawings of KITT from Knight Rider, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Michael Jordan—I managed to keep up the “Writer” part up to now.
It’s a cool feeling to be able to say, “I’m a writer.” I’d imagine it’s even cooler if you actually write from time to time. I’ve managed to write hundreds of essays and term papers as a student, actively participate on my high school and college newspapers, intern at a daily newspaper for a semester, freelance a couple of articles since graduating from school, and yet, I can still feel the “Writer” on my childhood desk plaque starting to fade quickly.
This blog is an attempt to curtail that. It will make me accountable. If I have a thought, an idea, or a hypothesis I think is worth mentioning, I’ll post it. The themes I write about here won’t fit neatly into a niche that will have advertisers begging to buy ad space here. It may not be read by anyone at all. But the hope is that I will incite some response—even if that response is, “You suck”—and that whoever does stumble upon it can get something out of it before they go on with their day.
So if you have managed to find me here, welcome, and please come again.