I waxed not-so-poetic awhile back on how digital communications were breeding a culture of lazy and rude people. With the simple click of a “send” or “submit” button, we’re distancing ourselves from both onus and ownership. And today, I ask: What is this doing – for better or worse – to the way we build, run, and conduct business?
And perhaps more importantly, where have the good old fashioned humans gone in our days filled with all this new-fangled technology?
I’m an old fashioned gal, though appearances might lend people to think otherwise. A fiscal conservative and social moderate. A gal who furrows her brow when the guy walking into the gym in front of me in the morning lets the door slam in my face. Always ready with a thank you when someone does me a kindness or takes me on a date. I generally call people Mr. X and Mrs. Y when first introduced until invited to call them otherwise. I don’t conduct relationships over text messages and own fully that there’s a charm, need, and inherent sincerity in both phone calls and handwritten correspondence.
Surprising for a gal covered in tattoos who uses the word “fuck” like a comma, ain’t it?
I asked my Facebook loyal subjects (Note: This is their choice of phrase, not mine. I actually polled.) what they considered to be “old fashioned” behavior. Here’s what they said:
- Holding doors, getting the car door for a date, spouse, or the elderly
- Handwritten thank you notes and non-electronic holiday greetings (e-cards)
- Not owning a cell phone
- Not using text messages
I’ll even offer that they’re not “old fashioned” at all. They’re really just common decency. They’re also guiding principles for how we can run better businesses, build better relationships, and lessen the chasm developing in our communications with others – all thanks to the convenience (curse?) of the digital age.
First, Fuck Your Email
Fuck it. You know what email is in many cases? Lazy. Most of the time, it’s impersonal. But before we get on with the general fucking of your email, here are some things email is simply great for:
- Quick, efficient communications
- A little laugh here and there
- Things that aren’t time-sensitive
- Lengthy responses (note: only effective when you’re sending said responses to people who actually read the epic Tolstoy shit you write)
- Stalling (because you screwed up and can’t say the words on a phone call)
- Passive-aggressive subtext galore
- Flagrant misuse of ………..emotions and punctuation marks :-DDD !!!!!!!!!!
- Forwarding shit that’s just going to ruin the productivity of your day, piss off your IT guy, and jam up your mail server with a string of stupid pictures that are already all over Facebook.
Email is an excuse for us to remove ourselves from owning our responsibility to communicate with the people who not only make our days better, but our businesses stronger. So how can you tell your email to suck it and use it as a tool for spreading your commitment to common decency?
- No More Excuses: The next time you’re ready to send someone an email apologizing for note calling/missing a deadline/not returning their email, pick up the goddamned phone. There’s a person on the other end of that message whose time is no more important than yours. Chances are, you’ve already wasted it. And don’t you just love it when people waste your time?
- Commit to Effective Communication: I suck at this (which sucks, especially since I’m a writer). I will let an email chain go on for 12 back-and-forths, and to no good end. Before I know it, messages are muddled, people are pissed, and it all could have been taken care of with a quick 3-minute phone call instead of a series of emails hammered out while we’re half-assedly (assedly IS a word) listening to a conference call, petting the cat, scanning Facebook for (!) news of earth-shattering import, and getting dressed to go for a noontime run.
- Make Purpose Your Mission: I’m not saying blow off your email completely. As I said, it’s great for certain things. But when you draft an email, make sure it has a purpose. It’s about respect. Respect the audience who will receive your email. It’s the same for personal and business messages. What’s it about? What do you need to know? Do I require action from you? And for fuck’s sake – say thank you.
Change Your Attitude About Your Fucking Phone
That hurt to write because I guarantee you that I am the first person to mutter, “Fucking A – what now?!” when my phone dares ring? That’s bullshit. Nine times out of ten, that call is one I not just need to take, but one I want to take. I’m doing all I can to adjust my attitude towards my phone because aside from face-to-face communication, it’s the most effective communication tool at our disposal (aside from the token and situation-appropriate middle finger). You can’t see people smile over email, but you can hear them smile over the phone. Phones give us back emotions.
Remember growing up when we waited with bated breath for the godforsaken phone to ring? Adolescent hopes and dreams were tied to voices coming through a handset in hues of harvest gold. Plans for the night. A cute boy. A pretty girl.
It’s time we started treating the people who call us like those cute boys and pretty girls from our adolescent years.
When did we forget that these people who are calling us are the reason we get to do what we love every day? And if you hate what you and dread the voices on the other end of the phone you man during your 8-to-5, it’s time to start plotting your exit.
Here are five tips for adjusting your attitude (and mine) about the phone and the people who have the audacity to call you on it.
- When it rings, be glad. Because the opposite could be your truth.
- Thank everyone. Even that colossal asshat at your credit card company who can’t seem to understand that you’re stranded in a foreign country with no cash.
- Pick it up for shits and giggles. There’s a certain joy in hearing a human voice when you need to hear one most. Call people whose relationships you care about even when there is no reason.
- Stop viewing it as an extension of your email. Texting is great for quick, emotionally devoid exchanges. It’s not a vehicle for building a relationship of any sorts – business or otherwise.
- Stop assigning those stupid, personalized ringtones. Quit screening your calls. Everyone who calls you is important. Answer the fucking phone. If you simply cannot, call then the fuck back in a timely fashion. After all, they took the time to call you. And grow a pair. Develop the skill of ending a call you no longer want/need to be on. Quit dodging the calls altogether.
There is one thing that I remember and take to heart from my days as an agent’s assistant working at CAA (Creative Artists Agency). At the beginning, middle, and end of each day, we’d “roll calls.” That meant we had a list of people who had called us that we needed to call back, so we went through the list top to bottom until we’d left word or closed the conversation. That voicemail indicator on your phone with the big “9” in the red circle? Yeah, more bullshit.
Quit avoiding humans because you might actually have to have a conversation with them.
You There – Crankypants. Shut Your Pie Hole.
We are so quick to bitch about business. Gone are the days where we continue to patronize the ill-tempered shopkeeper, because it’s not Main Street anymore and we have options.
It’s time that we got old fashioned again and remembered that people have options. And the truth is, we are only one of many options they could choose.
It really shouldn’t have to be said that we should treat everyone in our lives with an underlying current of common decency. And it’s more than opening doors and saying thank you for a meal. It’s about remembering above all that the only reason any of us get to do what we love is because our customers grant us permission. And we will only be in business for as long as they grant permission.
Quit bitching and start thanking. We can bitch on Twitter, bitch on Facebook, bitch in a blog post, bitch in line at Starbucks. Everywhere we turn, it’s bitching. So here’s what I propose: The next time you’re in line somewhere and hear someone bitching about a person or a company, insert your name and your company in their conversation.
Odds are, you probably wouldn’t want anyone overhearing that conversation.
So don’t do it. In a world where what we say carries further than ever, I can only hope that I can do the following:
- Bitch in private
- Thank in public
- And conduct every conversation as if it will be traced back to me. Because odds are, it will be.
The Net Net On Old Fashioned Business
It’s not old fashioned. It’s common decency.
We’re too old for the juvenile antics and back-and-forth bitchfests over text and email. It’s shitty to hear someone in line behind you at the store launching a rant, oblivious to the fact that everyone around can hear that they think so-and-so is a raging cocksucker.
We need to treat everyone in business – and our lives – with common decency. Holding doors, saying thank you, picking up the tab for lunch every now and again. Calls for no reason. Respecting one another’s time.
None of us is more important than the other and our level of investment in the latest and greatest technology doesn’t make us superior to another in any way. In many cases, if makes us inferior. We unintentionally forget that it’s the people in our lives and our relationships with them that make everything possible.
Technology is a marvel of human potential and creativity. The geek in me never ceases to be amazed at what gadgets my fellow humans can engineer from dreams into reality. But I have to consistently remind myself what technology cannot do.
Technology can show us on-demand internet porn, but it can’t build a relationship based on trust, emotion, and respect with someone you love.
Technology can keep us in touch with people across the globe, but it can’t make them feel valued.
Technology can make us more efficient than ever, but it can’t take away the human touch that makes one startup succeed and another one fail.
Being old fashioned? I’m certain that part of that means being human and finding the childlike amazement in the potential of the humans who surround us each day. And treating them with common decency is a step in the right direction to having those humans stick around for awhile.
I don’t know about you, but it’s those human beings who stick around that create my memories and give me the moments I’ll never forget. Stick some photo corners on ‘em and throw ‘em in an album, I say.
If that’s old fashioned, so be it. I’ll take it any day over new-fangled.