For the last three weeks I’ve been working on a project with someone who uses the telephone for nearly all our communication. Occasionally his call is to ask if he can drop by, because he’s in the neighborhood working on another project.
He breaks most stereotypes, for he’s young, has an iPhone and Gmail address, designed and maintains his own website, but he prefers to call, and to talk. He considers texting to be unprofessional, and he won’t ever email unless it’s off-hours and he’s pretty sure I’m waiting for an answer of some kind. If I email him, I know the phone will ring as soon as he reads whatever I had sent, so he can answer me that way instead. I asked him if he engages with social media, and his response was, “You’re kidding, right?” To be completely honest, I’m still not sure if that meant yes or no.
The punchline to this short story? Though way, way out of my comfort zone, and likely to be a one-shot deal (we’re working on a construction project together) this has been one of the most enjoyable projects I’ve worked on in a long, long time.
I’ve come to notice just how much person-to-person or voice-to-voice communication with this person has added to the entire experience, because neither of us opts for making it techno-efficient. Most of the work we accomplish happens as we converse.
We take the time to talk, and it’s not that much more in terms of the time we add, but it’s exponentially more in what we achieve. Those little adds share more with each other, often simply in being that ‘more’ you cushion information with when speaking with each other in real time — we used to call it ‘civility.’ Our social graces in conversation have become a huge factor in the overall project experience, so much so, that I keep asking myself — why oh why have I been so quick to give up on the telephone in favor of email?
Let me say again, that this is a construction project. I’m not coaching him, and we’re not having tea and crumpets — we’re solving problems, stressing through building codes, permits, supply irregularities and labor issues.
As odd as it may sound, I’m rediscovering the wonder of the telephone.
In the archives: On the Art of Civilized Conversation