I received an email the other day that irritated me. It was only two sentences long. The first describing a problem that needed to be addressed, and the second was a pointed question, “Are we going to do anything about this?” I have a bad habit of responding to closed-ended questions with a simple “yes” or “no” response. I have a low tolerance for stupid questions. In this case my border-line, smart-ass reply would have been “no.” The issue was done, and not one likely to be repeated in the future if not addressed. I didn’t see any value in follow-up. The sender of this email wasn’t really asking if anything was going to be done about this. He was requesting that something be done about that. If I had sent my standard curt response, it would have let to a long chain of emails of him trying to persuade me that something needed to be done, and to me trying to persuade him that it would be best to just move on.
Email is a helpful communication tool. It can share information quickly and efficiently, it can recap discussions and decisions, and it can be used to brainstorm and collaborate. But it a horrible tool for debates or discussions where two sides see things differently.
So, I picked up the phone and called him. We had a healthy discussion and decided on a next steps that made sense to both of us.
“In the end, it came down to two 70-year-old men, talking on the phone.”
The recent fiscal cliff disaster was averted when Biden and McConnell hammered out the solution to the by picking up the phone and talking to each other.
If your communication requires some give and take and a little more conversation, skip the email and pick up the phone.