I am phonophobic. No, that’s probably not right. I’m phone-o-phobic. Like many writers, I am scared shitless of speaking on the telephone. When email became ubiquitous 25 years ago, I felt like it had been invented just for me. I took to it like a fly to dog poo. Today, no one that knows me calls me. And anyone that calls goes through Giovanna, who tells them that I am not available to speak. By and large, communication with me takes one of two forms: Email for business. Texting for directions or scheduling social appointments.
But there are at least three kinds of communication that are better done in person or on the phone:
* Group conversations (like business meetings)
* Difficult two-way conversations (bad news or criticism)
* Analyzing anything complex
Thus, four or five times a year, I fly to some city – Baltimore, London, Sao Paulo, etc. – and spend a few days to a week in meetings with the many companies I consult with for my main client. And despite occasional bouts of jet lag, I find that those meetings are very valuable.
Yet, given the choice, I’d always rather have business discussions via email.
However, when it comes to discussing what’s happening with the business as a whole (an international, billion+ dollar group of direct response companies), we are usually looking at spreadsheets. Such conversations, hugely important, consist of three to five people analyzing complicated problems. So email just doesn’t work at all.
But after years of trying – half-assing it with email strings that run on forever and never seem to reach a conclusion – I bit the bullet this month and had a phone conversation about our first-quarter financials with the CEO.
And to my surprise and delight, it went very well. In less than a half-hour, we were able to identify two or three serious concerns, go into them well enough to understand and even resolve some of the issues, and then identify a follow-up conversation needed to advance the discussion to the next level.
I’m writing this in the afterglow of having done something I’m uncomfortable doing and realizing how foolish that discomfort is. I don’t think for a minute that I’ve overcome my phone-o-phobia. But I’m pretty sure the anxiety I’ll be feeling about our next conversation will be a bit less.