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5 Things A Phone Call Can Do That Zoom Can’t

By Trey Harris, Dynamic North

I keep hearing it from all the pundits: Zoom fatigue. Great. One more disease to worry about. In wondering why folks may be a little bit tired of Zoom, I get it. Worrying about looking presentable. Paranoid about what (or who) is making your background screen capture worthy. Irritating talk-overs. Technology freeze.

So the pendulum has shifted back to lots and lots of emails, which has its pitfalls, too. Email strings a mile long. Over-typers who include paragraphs of prose. Misspellings that trigger my OCD. Unintended messages out of context. Lead balloon e-jokes. There is a pretty simple way to eliminate both of these ruts in communication. Pick up the phone and call someone.

Label me old-school, but recently I’ve noticed that when I call someone, it’s like a drink of fresh water. There are so many advantages to voice-to-voice that I never realized pre-pandemic. I can easily identify five key areas that a simple phone call has over an email or a Zoom meeting.

Cuts to the chase

A phone call can eliminate the run-around. It’s usually how I get down to the bottom of an issue that otherwise floats in an inbox and waits to bubble up in someone’s priority list. Scheduling and executing a Zoom call with someone takes too long. Have you ever noticed that you can be sniper-like when you’re calling someone for a quick answer? instead of waiting for an email answer? You get what you want immediately, and delay their carpel tunnel. Win-win.

Exercises “theater of the mind”

Forget virtual backgrounds. My mind actually enjoys filling in the blanks and visualizing where someone is during a phone call. It’s the reason radio had its Golden Years. “Theater of the mind” describes how, using only sounds, those masters of radio could conjure crystal clear scenes in our minds. I actually prefer imagining where someone is, rather than seeing their dowdy, messy bedrooms.

Produces honest answers

Phone calls allow us to focus on using one of our most effective communication tools, our voice. No one else sounds just like you. Most people, if they’ve known you for a while, can recognize your voice on the phone without your caller ID. Eat your heart out, Siri! There’s something comforting about that for both parties. It’s kind of like social media. Phone calls are “aural media” that keep our voices familiar. That type of familiarity brings trust. Trust brings honesty. An isn’t that what we want when we communicate? Honest answers?

Humanizes the message

Back when synthesized music sequencers were gaining popularity in the early 80’s, there was music software that had a feature called, “humanize.” None of us are metronomes, and can’t reproduce perfect rhythms like a computer can. So, this software would slightly alter a rather sterile computer-generated rhythmic note patterns to make it sound imperfect. Or, in other words, human. Translate this concept into reading typed words rather than hearing spoken words. You just can’t absorb the tone of sterile black and white fonts on a page like you can a human voice. Our off-the-cuff word choice, the timbre of our voice, the pace of our conversation all work together to communicate our message better than emails.

Eliminates awkward dismounts

I’ve lost count of the uncomfortable moments during the final few seconds of a Zoom call. Giant fingers reaching for the END button. Who talks last? How many good-byes are appropriate? Ugh. Contrast that with a phone call. There’s only one other person on the other end. It’s pretty obvious when the conversation is over. And a simple “Thanks, talk to you later” will always suffice.

Next time you’re debating the appropriate mode of communication, start with a phone call. You might get all you need in one well-placed dial. One thing is certain: you’ll thank each other for one less email and one less Zoom.

Photo by on Unsplash


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