Why a Phone Call is Worth 1000 Words: 5 Powerful Reasons

16. February 2018

In the digital age, the phone call often seems like a lacklustre means of communication. Unfortunately, we forget that in many situations voice communication is far more effective than other means. In fact studies have shown that after face-to-face meetings, phone calls are still the most effective way of communicating!

Speaking-Listening is More Effective than Reading-Writing

This actually isn’t a spectacular finding: it makes total sense. As we evolved as humans, our primary method of communication was speaking and listening. Only much later did we develop a writing system. A UCLA study looked at the DNA of our communication: it confirmed that only a small part of our communication actually comes through words – around 7 percent. The rest of how we understand something comes from things like intonation, body language and word stress – nonverbal communication – something we simply cannot convey in writing.

According to another study from Princeton University, spoken communication ensures that incoming messages enter the recipient’s brain and soak in quickly. In other words, we listen and understand quicker than we read and understand.

So not only do we understand better through spoken communication, we also understand quicker. Yet despite all the clear advantages of spoken communication, many of us still prefer to send an email or a chat message than make a phone call. Why is this?

Neonbrand | Unsplash
The Real Reasons We Shy Away from the Phone

We chat with our colleagues using Slack, arrange to go out with friends on WhatsApp and share experiences from our weekend breaks on Instagram. Thanks to digital transformation, you can communicate in the way you like most. But as soon as your phone rings, a feeling of uneasiness creeps in.

From a psychological point of view, our apprehension towards phone calls can be summed as the fear of the unknown. How do we know if the other person has the same desire to speak when we call? If we cannot figure out the other person’s state of mind in advance, then our motivation to make the call decreases.

For many making a call without knowing whether it will be well received is simply too intrusive. And as a result, we look for a different means of communication such as WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger, which don’t require an immediate response from the other person.

Whilst this can be seen as the main reason, particularly in an office environment there are other hurdles as well. Other common reasons for not picking up the phone include:

  • We could disrupt someone’s workflow or schedule
  • In general phone calls require more effort than email
  • Need for quiet space to conduct conversation

A little later we’ll look at 3 quick tips to overcome all of these common problems. But first let’s look at the practical advantages we can gain from utilizing the phone.

5 Valuable Reasons We Should Pick up the Phone More

A phone call is the bridge between digital communication and face-to-face collaboration. Whilst it’s easy to just type a message or an email, there are clear advantages to making a phone call. Let’s take a look:

1) You can convey personality and tone of voice

Phone calls are not just for sales and customer service reps. There’s a reason why a sales rep uses a phone to close a deal. Or if there is a potentially thorny issue to resolve, the support staff will schedule a call. Talking to a real person more closely resembles normal conversation. It is more personal to hear the voice of someone else and makes you feel cared about. You can add your personality – hopefully an advantage – and moderate your tone. By being friendly and attentive, people are more likely to respond in a positive way.

John Mee | Unsplash
2) You can build meaningful relationships quickly

What does an email sound like? It doesn’t have a voice. It’s much harder – if not impossible – to add individuality or emotion to an email (how often do you see caps, italics and old school emojis desperately trying to cheer up the email?) But we remember how a voice sounds. If we hear a voice we like, we tend to respond positively and in this way it’s more straightforward to build a good working relationship.

3) You can explain complex ideas

Whilst having a written plan or instructions is helpful, it is often hard to understand the exact intention. Walking someone through your ideas is an efficient way to check whether they have understood. In a two-way dialogue, you have the chance to rephrase complex ideas and check someone’s understanding by clarifying their questions. This can avoid a lengthy email thread back and forth and is often the quickest way to explain a complex idea.

4) You can calmly defuse urgent situations

It’s also one of the most efficient choices if a matter needs urgent attention. Emails can quickly be overlooked in overflowing inboxes, and chat messages may be missed if you’re away from your device. When the situation is urgent, a phone call enables you to gauge someone’s tone – something crucial for dealing with urgency.

5) You can make follow ups more personal

Face-to-face is the most direct way of communicating. After a great briefing, sales or team meeting, it can feel pretty cold to just receive an email as a follow up. The warmth of an actual conversation and the extra effort taken to make a phone call help maintain the rapport built up in the face-to-face meeting. Clients and colleagues alike will appreciate this.

How to Make a Phone Call with Confidence: 3 Quick Tips

Up to this point we have seen that spoken communication is often the best means, and that there are clear situations where we should pick up the phone. Here are three practical tips you can use to make your next phone call with confidence.

Tip 1: Schedule a time to avoid disrupting someone’s workflow

This has two advantages: by scheduling a time, you don’t have to worry about whether the person will want to talk to you. You take away the fear of the unknown. Secondly, by scheduling the call you allow the recipient to plan it into their day and minimise the chance of disrupting their workflow. Giving someone a head’s up is the best way to ensure your call is a success.

Tip 2: Plan what you want to discuss ahead of time

By making a few notes on what you would like to discuss you keep the phone call focussed. Make a rough roadmap and follow it. This may take an extra 5 minutes but it shows a respect for the recipient’s time.

Igor Son | Unsplash
Tip 3: Maximise your call by finding a quiet space

Phone calls require a lot of concentration and active listening. In an open office things can get a little hectic. This means if you have an important call coming up it may be a good idea to book a conference room or if this isn’t possible, to find a quiet corner of the office. This will improve your ability to listen to responses and maximise your call.

Pick up the Phone and Improve Your Communication!

Your freedom to communicate is greater today than ever before. However, if you want your communication to be as effective as possible, in many cases the phone simply cannot be beat! Give it a try today: replace an email or Slack message with an actual phone call. Let us know how it goes or if you have tips of your own in the comments below.

kaboompics | Pixabay

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