Pick Up The Phone!

This blog is dedicated to one of the best professional communicators I have known: Dad.

Dave Herbst, the man I am proud to have called “Dad,” spent 30-years as a publicist, writer, and editor for Walt Disney World. He recently and unexpectedly left this earthly plane for one, which I’m sure is far more wonderous, and from which he can continue helping and teaching. I feel guided to share one of his teachings with you.

This message is simple and to the point: Pick up the phone. When you have something to communicate that could possibly be misinterpreted via written communication, do yourself a favor and reach out to that other person with your voice.

There are many statistics floating around out there regarding what portion of communication is verbal and what portion is everything else. For example, according to some, a large percentage of what we communicate comes from tone of voice, pacing, inflection, body language and physical position in a room (e.g. I am sitting in a chair which is bigger and higher than yours because I’m communicating that your position in this communication is subordinate to mine).

This percentage is widely disputed, so I don’t even want to put one out there. What I will tell you is that I have had far greater success resolving potential disputes from reaching out through a phone call than when I attempted to cover myself by communicating through an e-mail.

For my lawyer-readers or my pre or post-dissolution readers, please be assured that if you feel like you have to cover yourself after the phone call, a memorializing e-mail or letter is perfectly acceptable.

I like to do this as well when handling a particularly important or contested topic. In the spirit of peacemaking, I let the other attorney know, while I am on the phone with them, that I will be memorializing our discussion in writing so as to check for mutual understanding.

I pick up the phone because I believe it is far more difficult to misinterpret the spirit of my words through a phone call than through an e-mail.

I speak of Dad’s message from my own personal experience. I speak from my failures and from my successes. I find myself empowered by the memory of my failures because I know now how to better manage those types of situations.

One particular failed situation comes to mind regarding an interaction with an attorney on a dissolution case. An inflammatory subject came up in the course of e-mail communication. I interpreted his e-mails as aggressive and responded accordingly. I gave him my BIFF (brief, informative, friendly and firm) response.

He didn’t care much for the firm part of my response. I believe I was too firm in my delivery. Had I used my voice I would have talked through the reason for my client’s position. I believe that because I didn’t use my voice, he couldn’t hear my intention and sincerity.

Since that time, I know now, when I receive his e-mails, I pick up the phone instead of responding through e-mail. Since doing this, we are able to have efficient, thoughtful communication.

Better than just telephonic communication, if you have access to a computer with a camera, and you feel like what you need to convey might be misinterpreted with just using your voice, try talking while you can see each other. And if the person with whom you need to speak is in the same office, for goodness sake, go talk to them in-person. In my mind this is the best way to communicate.

By the way, I feel so strongly about this subject that I turned the texting off on our cell phones. So, if you try to text us, don’t expect a response. Pick up the phone!!!!

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