It is commonly regarded that millennials are tech-savvy, passionate individuals and are virtually inseparable from their cell phones. However, what is often neglected is that millennials do not necessarily talk on the phone; rather, they text, tweet, and send videos, etc. With the rise of social media platforms such as Snapchat and Instagram coupled with the desire for instant and immediate communication, millennials are redefining the traditional means of communication.
As a millennial myself, I constantly hear my friends talk about how much they hate it when people call them. Many feel that phone calls are a time-consuming and outdated form of communication that can be easily streamlined by sending a simple text. What is more surprising is that many actually believe that phone calls are rude—the idea of requesting one to speak to them immediately versus allowing that person to respond when most convenient seems rather rude to them.
Such attitudes have certainly trickled over into other generations, directly contributing to a growing trend in the workforce. This trend, which I will dub “phone-phobia”, has created an environment where people expect to be notified before receiving a call.
One of my coworkers described a recent conversation he had with a customer as he was checking her out at his register. He recalled how that particular customer wanted to purchase something for her son who needed it for his construction job the next day. Before finalizing the transaction, the woman attempted to contact her son (using all three of his phone lines) only to get no answer. Just as she was about to give up, she received a text message from her son.
“Why are you calling me? What do you need? I am busy.”
When I heard this, I was saddened but not particularly shocked because I had experienced similar scenarios throughout my life.
Millennials are sometimes dubbed as the “me” generation; while not wholeheartedly the case, it is important that we do not let any sense of entitlement override how we interact with others.
When did we collectively lose the idea that problems are best dealt with by connecting with people on a personal level?
What I saw was an elderly woman trying to accomplish a goal in a timely manner only to be hindered by a barrier to communication. That is by living in a society where texting is the dominant form of communication actually restricts the interpersonal nature of communication.
This is not to say instant communication, such as email and social media, should necessarily be discarded. To say that would be the opposite extreme of which we also want no part. What millennials and other generations in the workforce need to find is balance.
There are several companies today that have found this balance and even thrive off the relaxed yet professional combination. Taking a glance at the list of companies with a prowess in instant communication, big names such as Google, Microsoft, and Apple come up. These companies have made communicating more interesting through the use of visuals, social media, and internal communication programs like Slack. However in a strictly professional sense, the art of personalized communication through face-to-face communication and voice call communication is not lost on these companies either. Rather, I would argue that such companies are trying to strike a balance between digital and personal communication.
Currently, nearly seven billion people live in a world that is constantly evolving and developing at every waking moment. With this in mind, new trends in the way we communicate are inevitable as we move closer to globalization and the role of mass media comes into play.
However, there are some avenues that we shouldn’t needlessly dismiss as being just another relic of the past. Therefore, I believe society should not discard the traditional phone call as a means of communication.
Phone calls add a personable touch and feeling to whatever is being communicated. There is something distinctly human about phone calls that texting can’t mimic. Texts are meant to be short and to the point. They don’t convey intention and don’t provide clarifications, which can often lead to miscommunication.
Think for a moment why companies take multiple breaks from their research, sales, and general functionality to come together to have face-to-face meetings. Any good leader will say that this is to “bounce ideas off one another” or as a way to hear each other’s ideas verbally. This gives an easier venue for communication. It allows opportunity for expansion and clarification, something that a simple text message cannot provide.
So next time, don’t settle for “I’ll shoot them an email” or “They might be in a meeting, I shouldn’t call”. Don’t allow trends to dictate how you communicate. Jobs and projects can be difficult enough already; don’t let poor communication be another barrier in the way of true progress.