power your advice

Pick Up the Phone Already

I’m not one to preorder books.

This one I had to have at once.

Sherry Turkle’s Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age.

It arrived last Friday. I crawled into bed and entered reading heaven.

Turkle is Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology at MIT. Trained as a sociologist and licensed clinical psychologist, Turkle has spent the last 30 years studying the psychology of people’s relationships with technology.

Technology has robbed us, Turkle argues convincingly, of the art of conversation. The losses run deep. The heftiest price we pay is a pervasive erosion of empathy.

I confess, I value my social media life. LinkedIn and Twitter. Love the relationships it has yielded. Substantive ones.

And I agree with Turkle.

Here’s a ridiculously simple way of reclaiming conversation at work.

Pick up the phone.

Leandra Campbell, the superb Relationship Manager at my firm, came to me straight out of college. Leandra writes impeccable emails. Picking up the phone wasn’t Leandra’s first impulse when engaging with a client. My coaching has been unequivocal.

When you don’t get a response in time, pick up the phone.

When it’s a complex request, pick up the phone the first time around.

Linda Provenza, a seasoned Organizational Change Agent based in the San Francisco area, sends me a document for feedback. I instantly know what I wish to say. Instead of taking the time to formulate my feedback in an email, I request a 15-minute call.

We pick up the phone.

Just finished conducting a 360 feedback process for a cherished client. I want you to talk to everyone, she instructs me. Yippie. The conversations that ensue yield deft opportunities for deeper exploration. Instead of a formulaic data print-out with a few unexamined comments tossed into the mix, my client receives a glimpse of shared narratives and the pleasure of seeing their rich conversational language represented in print.

It all happened on the phone.

This is a story I hear all the time.

Jeff is so busy, I don’t want to bother him, a colleague says to me. In the same breath this colleague bemoans the fact that she doesn’t have a great rapport or close relationship with Jeff.

Jeff may, indeed, be busy. Jeff is also not a mind reader.

Unless you have been explicitly told that phone calls are not desired, pick up the phone.

I spent the week chatting with potential publicists to promote my upcoming book. Each publicist offers two ways of being contacted. An email address. A phone number.

You bet I picked up the phone.

A phone call does not necessarily a conversation make. It’s a great place to begin.