Like a lot of people who stare at screens all day, I prefer quick, clear communication. My husband tells me that I have a PhD in straight forward, and I tend to agree. I wish everyone had the same degree, but most have not mastered simple communication rules.
Case in point, I needed to make a dermatologist’s appointment, so I looked at their web page. My primary doctor’s web page has an option to make appointments online, as nature intended. I figured the dermatologist office would be the same. Nope. So, as though I were living a hundred years ago, I called the doctor’s office. Of course, as is the custom, a robot answered the phone and I had to push 3 to make an appointment, which took me straight to a voicemail message where I was told to expect a call back in 48 hours. WHAT? They never called back, so I emailed the office. They answered my email with a “call us to make an appointment.” I gave up and chose another doctor.
Why the heck do they have email? And why have voicemail if you don’t return calls. It’s like I’m living in a Genesis song. After this experience, and others like it, I decided that a little refresher course on communication in the Internet age was necessary, and here it is.
Free of charge, I present you with Rules for Communication in the 21st Century:
- Answer your email. I can’t tell you how many times I have waited days or weeks for a reply to a simple email. If I ignored someone for 3 days, or more, I’d be fired.
- Reply to the person in the same mode of communication. If someone texts you, text back. If someone emails you, use that handy dandy reply button. Do not call someone in response to an email or text.
- In fact, just DON’T call anyone. Phones are not for phoning anymore. I’m sure the telephone was a huge deal in Alexander Graham Bell’s time. Now, it is just annoying. It is a device used by telemarketers and people who have not mastered Facebook, email, or texting. I can’t think of a time when the phone has not been an intrusion. It’s loud and demanding. You can hear everyone’s background noise on it, too. If I want to hear Darth Vader breathing, I will watch Star Wars.
- If you are a business, make sure your web site is actually useful. There is no need to order or pay for anything over the phone. If you own a business and your web site is not set up to accept payments, open a Pay Pal account. If you own a business and have no idea what I am talking about you need to be drop kicked into the new millennium.
- Warn People before you visit. For the love of all that is holy, DO NOT just show up at someone’s house. Dropping by was rude in the 80’s, and I’m pretty sure it’s punishable by death now. If I’m not expecting you, I won’t answer the door. Text first. Don’t call. Text.
- Learn how to spell! You are not writing a song for Prince; you are communicating with other educated human beings. I will climb through the interwebs and jack slap you if you send me nonsense like, “R U going 2.”
- USE your out of office reply. If you will not be checking or replying to email, set up an out of office reply telling people how to reach you. If the answer is they CAN’T reach you for a while, that is fine, too, just tell them. Include a date when they can expect a reply.
- USE your voicemail announcement. If you can’t answer the phone, tell callers that. Direct them to the best way to contact you rather than just tell them you’ll call them back. Because if you’re like the kind folks at the dermatologist’s office, you won’t really call anyone back.
It seems so simple, but communication is a struggle for a lot of people. Times they are a changing. The telephone is not just for talking. We can communicate in a number of ways. Learning to use them all effectively can save you time and aggravation, mostly aggravation.
Did I miss any? Please add your tips for better communication in the comments section. I love hearing from you.
This post originally appeared on the Huffington Post.