Why I don’t answer most phone calls

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I wrote this article because many people don’t understand why I don’t pick up their phone calls, and why I love emails so much.

I hope that it will help you understand my point of view, my values, and how I prefer to communicate.

1- Because I’m busy

What you are going to say is probably not more urgent than what I decided to do right now.

Whether I’m working or spending quality time with close ones, I hate being interrupted. Most people want to call me because it’s “more convenient” for them, but in most cases it’s not reciprocate.

This may sound douchy, but my prospective clients appreciate the fact that, when I will be working on the mission they asked me to do, I won’t let other prospective clients interrupt and distract me. Focus is important, especially when I’m programming.

Why you should not interrupt a programmer, (c) Jason Heeris 2013

Solution: If you have to tell me something really urgent, you can leave a message (preferably by SMS or email, btw), and you will probably call again later.

2- Because my agenda and tasks are also on my phone

Many phone calls I receive are for planning a meeting, or asking me to do something. But callers seem not to realize that it’s complicated for me to read and manipulate my calendar and TODO-list on my phone while I’m using it for the call.

Solution: Send me a doodle link, or ask me for a free slot (by SMS or email), I’ll send you a list of free slots using Sunrise’s great keyboard extension, or using Vyte.in. (I may also decide to decline; see reason #1)

3- Because a call leaves no trace

When I discuss something over a phone conversation, the caller and I often take decisions. The problem is that the call leaves no trace of these decisions. So I once ended up arguing with an upset client because he was pretty sure he told me what he wanted over that phone conversation, but there is no trace to prove it.

That’s why it’s good business practice to follow-up by email (or any persistant type of communication) to recap decisions and actions points after a vocal discussion.

Solution: Instead of taking decisions on the phone and follow-up by email, it’s more efficient (in most cases) to exchange directly by email.

4- Because your communication is worse

Calling over the phone is a like showing up in someone’s office. It’s easy and convenient for the caller, because it’s immediate. Unfortunately, this immediateness increases the chance of the caller to thinking out loud, because he didn’t take the time to think before reaching out to the callee. I sometimes end up listening to a verbose and unclear phone call, or even an irrelevant one. In these cases, I lost the time that the caller should have spent refining his message.

Solution: Writing an email is an opportunity to think about the message you want to transmit. Make sure that it’s clear and concise enough, if you want to increase the chances that your recipient reads and replies to it as expected. In some cases, you will realize that you don’t actually need to bother your recipient.

5- Because repeating yourself is costly

These days, I’m contacted by many entrepreneurs who are looking for a developer, and want to pitch their startup idea to me. Because it’s very hard to seduce a developer to become your co-founder, these people have to reach out to dozens of developers, repeating the same pitch over and over again.

I see two problems with that approach:

  • repeating may decrease the enthusiasm and spontaneity of your pitch,
  • repeating it vocally to every callee is very time consuming.

Solution: Sending emails allows you to copy and paste paragraphs (e.g. your pitch), so it’s saving your time. Nevertheless, make sure that your email remains tailored for each recipient by including specific/personal phrases.

6- Because it’s awkward

While I was employed, I was sometimes called by recruiters during office time. I assume that these people didn’t take the time to think that it would be awkward for me to talk about my interest in their job offer, while I’m facing my boss in our open space!

You probably don’t know in which context I am, as you want to call me. And this context may not be ideal for us to have a pleasant and productive conversation.

Solution: If you really need to have a phone conversation with me, and want me to talk to you in a comfortable context, please ask for time slot before calling. (see reason #2)

7- Because my memory sucks

Last but not least, this reason is the most painful to admit, but also the most important for me: I always had trouble remembering people, and what they told me. I’m not sure why, but I’ve been bearing that handicap since I was a child. (I would like to thank my friends and acquaintances who embrace it, btw)

Because I meet more people than my memory can handle, I use notes a lot to help me remember who you are and what you’re up to. So, if I don’t know you, and that you introduce yourself and your project over the phone, there’s a high chance that you will have to do that again for me later.

Please don’t be offended if my memory fails at recalling you and what you’ve been up to. If I’m not interested by you and/or your project, I will probably tell you so.

Solution: Using email to introduce yourself and your project will help me remember you.

I hope that my reasons to not pick up the phone make sense to you. Whether you agree or disagree on those reasons, I would love to read your point of view, opinion and/or additional suggestions, as comments of this article.

Thank you for your consideration and understanding!


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