Is it wrong to say “write to me?” The terrible telephone

You’re right in the middle of doing something that needs your full attention. You’re concentrating hard, just about getting to grips with it. You can see the A-HA moment ahead of you. The light at the end of the tunnel is beginning to wink at you. You reach out and almost touch it. Nearly there…

Then the phone rings. You answer.

why phone calls are disruptive

Miraculously the whizz-bang device of the 19th century, called the “telephone,” is still here with little other than the back-office technology having changed much.

“Hi Suze, it’s XXXXX. I was just having a read through of your YYYYY book and I’m not sure what you meant by your sentence about blog abstracts on page 178. Can you tell me more about it?”


Let’s try another version of that.

You’re right in the middle of doing something, etc., etc. as above. The phone rings. You swear loudly and let it ring until it stops.

Later you pick up the message from voicemail and it’s irate.

“Why didn’t you answer your phone? I know you were in because I saw your car parked outside your house. What’s the problem? I wanted to talk to you. Please call me back.”

Slightly smaller meltdown.

What is it about telephone calls that make people think theirs, to you, will be far more important than anything else you might be doing, and you’ll drop that to talk to them?

Reminds me of that old joke: “do you talk to your partner during intimacy?” “No, only if they telephone.”

The telephone’s changing role at home and at work

Miraculously the whizz-bang device of the 19th century, called the “telephone,” is still here with little other than the back-office technology having changed much.

Back way back when though, a telephone in your home was located in your hall or main living room and when it rang everyone in the building jumped to attention ready to answer it. A ringing telephone at work meant that whoever was calling had something more important to share with you than could be accommodated by a handwritten note or typed memo.

Today, unless the recipients of your random phone calls are as telephonetically schizoid as you are, give us a break. Calling people these days on the off-chance they may happen to be free from other – let’s face it, possibly more important things than you – happens a lot and is something we all need to think about.

Bloody rude

Would you bang on the bathroom door expecting someone to get out of the shower, dripping, because you want a word with them? Expect someone to stop eating their lunch, letting it go cold, because you have a question about delivery dates that needs an answer now? No, at least I hope not. Because it’s bloody rude.

This is what can happen when you phone someone out of the blue.

Today’s telephone calls compete with a lot – and don’t always win

Another point about way-back-when is that other than a clunky manual typewriter at your desk, the telephone was the only piece of tech you had to help you with your work. When the phone rang it would signal your only way of communicating with the outside world, apart from face-to-face. A genuinely Big Deal.

Today, voice calls compete with so many different communication methods it’s not funny. And many of those other methods do not – happily – require you to drag your intended call-ee away from anything, until they’re ready. They are gentle and polite, unlike the brutal caterwauling of your phone going off (or even the buzzing you can hear when it’s on silent.)

The best of those other methods? Writing 

Remember that?

Written and audio texts, emails, messages, social media posts and the like have the good manners to imply, “I know you’re probably busy so what about this, when you get a minute?”

I tell business contacts to please “drop me a note when you’d like to talk further,” because that gives me – and them – space to work out when would be a good time for a phone call or face-to-face meeting. It may be a slightly slower way of doing things, but it’s more comfortable and even, genteel.

So please, write before you call

…if you want to show respect for your clients and customers. Even if it’s a matter of minutes with a text saying, “Is it OK to call you in 5 minutes about your order delivery?” Or a note on Messenger saying “Are you going to the seminar tomorrow? If so, shall we share transport? I’ll give you a call later to confirm.” 

And that way we can stop phone calls being invasive, inconsiderate and – terrible.

What do you think? Please share your views!