Increasingly it’s becoming rare for people to do the simple task of returning someones telephone call. And it shows a lack of courtesy and professionalism as well as humanism that is becoming pervasive in this country.
Let’s be clear my opening statement excuses all non-returned calls to strangers who have no known connection to you. If someone calls and leaves me a message and I don’t know them and they don’t identify someone we know mutually or they don’t give me compelling reason to call them back, I probably won’t. If you’re calling someone who doesn’t know you it’s YOUR responsibility to give them reason to call you back.
I’ve been deluged with this problem lately; and I’ll admit I’m venting a little. But what has pushed my buttons to the point of writing this blog is how many people don’t return calls who initially contacted me or who personally asked me to call them. Quite candidly, that’s rude. Just like I was always taught about the practice of being on time for a meeting or appointment where being late tells those who are waiting for you that you and your schedule is more important in your own mind than is the person left waiting or their schedule. Not returning a phone call to someone who took the time to call you, or return your call simply says to that person, “You’re not THAT important to me”. And what does that say about your own arrogance? Or courtesy? Or character?
Let’s face it, some calls you don’t want to return for any number of reasons. But for whatever reason at that time you don’t want to speak with the person who attempted to call you. But here’s a revelation, we all have to sometimes do things we’d rather not. I’d rather sleep in until whenever I wake up rather than rise at 5:30am like I’ve done everyday since starting my company Total Broadcasting Service in 2005. But though I have no boss watching over me to see to it that I’m on time and that I’m showing up, I do have a family depending on me to bring home the bacon. I have clients expecting me to complete the tasks I’ve promised to complete for them. And I find that I can keep those promises best when I rise early.
I will join others like Pamela Paul of the New York Times in putting some of the blame for the lost art of returning phone calls on technology. Why return a call when you can email or text? By emailing or texting a Reply you can say what you want to say and be done with it and not have to listen to whatever it is the person calling you wants to say. This is exactly my point. It takes an awful lot of arrogance and not too much love or caring to make a judgement that you don’t want to hear what a friend, business person or family member has to say before they’ve even said it. You’re not clairvoyant. As Paul writes in her 2011 Times article certainly teens and young adults have long ago abandon any sense of needing to return calls. A business associate I was speaking with yesterday had the kind and thoughtful idea of buying an AdvoCare 24 Day Challenge and accessory products from my wife and I for his 24-year-old daughter. He put me in touch with her. and when I spoke with her she enthusiastically sounded like she wanted the high quality health and nutrition products that AdvoCare offers. But upon talking again with her father he lamented how his daughter wasn’t returning his phone calls and that this was not unusual. I related to him my complete understanding since I have a 25-year-old daughter who has never felt compelled to return my calls.
I also recently had dealings with a 23-year-old daughter of one of my best friends. Despite his chastising her and my repeated attempts to reach her she simply would not call me back. After about 1 week she emailed me. How nice. NOT!
But don’t let me give you the impression that my negative experiences in this area are reserved for teens and young adults. While its my sense that age group is more frequently neglectful in the courteous practice of returning phone calls, they are by no means exclusive to the practice of not returning calls.
In years past when my sales career involved about 6-hours a day of calling clients on the telephone I developed the habit of seldom leaving phone messages. To do so was pointless. Not only was it unlikely that I would get a return call; but leaving a message also made it far more awkward for me to be able to call again. So if I failed to reach a client or potential client I simply said to my inquisitor “No message. Thank you. I’d rather call back. When’s best?”. And of course if there was no inquisitor, only a voice mail or recorder, I wouldn’t leave any message. If I was cold calling I used the baseball practice of 3-strikes and you’re out. Meaning, if I called three times without reaching the person I was trying to reach I would stop calling and be rid of the annoying task of repeatedly calling back. If my efforts were directed at a past client my efforts would expand depending on the value I placed on that client. Still, it was a rare client with whom I’d leave a message and trust to get a call-back.
And perhaps more frustrating than anything is that it has never been easier to return calls. Nearly everyone has their own mobile phone. With that, many still have a home and work telephone number. It’s inconceivable that at no time while walking driving or sitting and watching TV that a phone call can’t be returned. And please, get over yourself if you’re thinking “I’m just so busy”. If you return a call right away you don’t have it on the to-do list to be forgotten later. Just a tip…
I am not a fan of email and texting conversations. Like a lot of people I think the anonymous or faceless text or email allows me to have a much “sharper” writing pen than I would ever have with my tongue. And not being able to hear or convey tones, inflections, or facial or body language I have frequently been misunderstood with emails and text messaging. I’m sure I’m not alone in this victimization. And what makes it more frustrating is that I’m a fairly decent and accomplished writer, having done it professionally for much of 30 years.
The saddest part of this scenario is that I view the developments of texting, emailing, and Facebooking
as a de-humanizing of our culture. We’re far more than mere scribbles on a white screen. We are laughs, and smiles and sometimes harsh or serious tones all of which can be heard or seen but can’t be conveyed with any degree of effectiveness with the written word. As human beings we grow and learn from contact with one another. We celebrate. We educate. And how much of each is being lost by our increasing efforts to avoid human contact, human touch? I fear it’s much.
Thanks for visiting. Comments are welcome.