In my pocket I almost always have a smart phone. Most people do nowadays. In fact, the proliferation of smart phones in the past few years has been astounding, frankly. It seems that even people who were reticent to get one in the past now have one. But just because you have one, doesn’t mean you’re using it “right.” So here is Tony’s guide to smart phone etiquette for 2016.
There are three main ways to communicate with a smart phone. There’s the obvious, a telephone call, which is what some people think this device is actually for even though it’s really not. Then there’s e-mail. And finally there’s text messaging. So when do you use which? That’s easy.
Send a Text
When you have a quick message, such as “what time are you going to be there” or “add milk to the shopping list” then a text message is the way to go. There’s a web-based service called Twitter that, at the present time, has a limit of 120 characters in each communique. If your message can fit into that space, it should.
Lots of my friends my age just don’t like using text messages but it’s really the fastest and most efficient way to take care of small details. Unlike a phone call there's no greeting, no weird waiting to say “good bye,” the the efficient relay of whatever the message at hand is.
Plus the recipient can deal with the action or response when they have time to and since the responses are usually also fast, you are likely to get a faster resolution.
Send an Email
This is the next level of escalation in the communication chain. If you have something that might need points of reference, such as web links, or you have something that’s more involved than a 120-character message will allow for, this is the way to go.
Email is also advantageous in that it leaves a point of reference so if there are actionable items to accomplish you can refer back to them in email. Also, email leaves the recipient the option of taking action when time permits.
The Thermonuclear Option
In any chain of communication, this is the scorched earth solution. This is when things require absolute collaboration and a true back-and-forth conversation that could last a few minutes. I use the phone as a voice tool only if I have something that can’t be answered in an e-mail or text message, but this is my absolute last resort.
Yet some people think this is a normal tool as part of polite communication. It’s not. In fact, by calling someone what you're telling them is that this call is so time critical that you expect the person you’re calling to drop whatever they’ve planned for this period of time so they can do only whatever it is you’re calling about. When someone has projects going and things happening you can see how expecting them to drop everything they have so that they can focus on you is really not considerate or an efficient use of their time.
I work with a lot of people, especially those my age and above, who call me a lot. And they hear my voice mail a lot. I truly dislike talking on the phone, especially during hours when I can be getting something done that pays me. So when you call and call and keep getting my voice mail, I’m not answering because I’m doing something time-critical that likely pays me.
Now before you say that I’m rude, think about this. The person who calls instead of using a vehicle that can be quickly acted upon is literally placing no value on an individual's time whatsoever. They feel that whatever thing they want to talk about is more important than whatever I’m doing to keep a roof over my head.
Furthermore, a telephone call is like a government program - full of needless overhead. Hello. How are you? How’s the spouse? Talk to you soon. Good bye. All that is a lot of time that needn’t be wasted when an email or text message can get the job done.
Text messages and emails can be handled whenever I finish what I’m doing now, or sometimes even while I’m doing whatever I’m doing. At the very least, the first two options don’t require immediate response and can be acted on based on the severity of the message.
Of course there are other options. For example, I schedule video conferences with others when we have things to share. It’s also nice to see the faces of those people so you can gauge a reaction.
There are also private “chat” networks such as Skype and Google Hangouts along with a whole slew of in-company products available.
I also love shared documents that let people work on thing collaboratively. While Google Docs are the obvious solution to this there are others like Microsoft Office365 and Apple’s iWork suite to name two.
Now none of this pertains to “social” calls. Speaking with friends and family is very different so family members who may be offended by this post shouldn’t be. In fact, those who are might want to drop me a text to share their ire.