Pick Up the Phone, Now: Advice from Laurel Hook

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It’s something that’s fallen by the wayside in an age of instant messaging, social media, and opting to email or chat the person sitting right next to you, rather than engaging in a conversation.

When you want to communicate something, do it in person or via phone whenever possible. Just try it.

“You empower yourself and become a more powerful individual if you can pick up the phone and have a conversation,” says Stahancyk, Kent & Hook managing shareholder Laurel P. Hook.

There are too many nuances in our communication that are left out when we lean on iMessage or email to convey our points.

Multiple facets of communication come into play naturally when we pick up the phone, such as tone, tenor, repetition, response time, and the sequence in which issues are discussed. Those same aspects can be missed when we rely on instant messaging.

1. Dealing with Emotions

In family law, emotions run high. Much of the communication between attorneys, clients and adverse parties is intensely charged. The best way to manage that emotion is to talk with clients in person, or on the phone.

“If you are really [upset] about something, and someone picks up the phone and talks to you, you are no way going to leave as angry as when you started,” says Hook. “It’s become a more foreign way to communicate and as a result you get better traction that way.”

2. Email Leaves You Guessing

Say, for example, an attorney receives an email from a client who is not understanding the divorce process and is frustrated.

Headshot of Laurel Hook.

Headshot of Laurel Hook.

“Writing back, you’re going to have to assume what part of their written message was the most important to them,” says Hook.

Without tone of voice, it’s impossible to know what’s really behind the client’s message, or what he or she is really upset about.

“But if you’re on the phone, you loop back to those same issues, you can hear the intensity in someone’s voice,” says Hook.

3. What’s So Important?

In written correspondence, one often assumes that the sender’s opening sentence is the issue that he or she is most concerned about.

“Until you talk and hear that tone and tenor, you don’t know what the important thing is that you can solve,” says Hook.  “If you’re on a rant, your opening sentence might not be what you really care about.”

Client concerns are often very solvable when discussed openly on a phone call or in person.

“It’s almost never solvable when you’re sitting there trying to assume what the most important part of the message is,” says Hook.

The Delay is Confusing

Perhaps the biggest challenge in any written correspondence is that the recipient can choose not to respond.

“That’s a power play,” says Hook. Alternatively, the recipient may not be available, and the delay can be misread as inattentive.