I dare you to pick up the phone

Humans are not very good at reading emotion between the lines of emails. Even worse, when tones are ambiguous in email, we tend to default to negative interpretations.

My dad has a rule: if you haven’t solved the problem with the first two emails exchanged, pick up the phone and call.

Is IM any different? How many exchanges have you had that look like this:

HappyDwarf32: ok, cool! So meet you for coffee at 2?
SleepyDwarf65: sure, that’s fine
HappyDwarf32: oh, well, is there something else that would be better?
SleepyDwarf65: I just said that’s fine
HappyDwarf32: well we don’t have to if you’re busy…

IM is a convenient tool for quickly resolving all kinds of small questions without fully interrupting the task at hand. It also comes with that brief but oh-so-important delayed response which our generation covets, freeing us from the emotional strain of conversations that require real-time back-and-forth.  It gives us the emotional safety to screen and ruminate over our responses.

But we have to admit that the medium does break down occasionally.  It isn’t ideal for all conversations.

If the limit for resolving something by email is 2 emails, how long do you give an IM conversation before you pick up the phone?


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