How picking up the phone makes all the difference

Pick up the phone

It’s such a human tendency, to want to either put off giving what is perceived as negative feedback or diluting it. Diluting it might be sandwiching it amongst so many other things, that the actual message gets diluted or lost. It’s so tempting to either avoid it completely or send an email or (worse) a text. But, here’s how picking up the phone makes all the difference.

The tale of two phone calls

The first phone call was regarding a proposal in which we hadn’t been successful. It’s often the case that unsuccessful tenderers either receive a stock standard email. Or, in some cases – receive no response at all. In picking up the phone, the potential client reaffirmed for me that it was someone that I wanted to do business with in the future. This also allowed an active conversation on their needs going forward.  It’s unlikely that we would have gone back and forth on email covering all the topics that our phone call did.

The second phone call was from a very long term client. She wanted to make changes to a programme we are building with her. She felt that one piece hadn’t worked as well as it could have. Again, the ability to communicate actively (as opposed to email which is so passive), meant that I could really drill down to understand her perspective. It led a much broader conversation around the programme and ways that we could further expand it next year.

In the first instance, whilst we didn’t win this piece of work, the relationship has been strengthened and trust built.

In the second instance, the client strengthened an already significant relationship and consolidated the partnership by co-creating. It also meant that there were no misunderstandings.

Both instances could easily have been dealt with via an email. A couple of lines at the most.

Picking up the phone took longer, and required more up front courage from both callers. But both will have long term payoffs that far outweigh this perceived “cost”.


  • Every day there is at least one situation where picking up the phone will have long term benefits way in excess of the perceived cost of time and courage.
  • It’s when we get that “pit of the stomach” feeling and rationalise that an email will be quicker and more efficient, that those are the exact times we should pick up the phone.
  • Giving feedback, having the hard conversations is a muscle – and like any other muscle, the more we use it the easier it is.
  • Even if the words come out wrong, or it sounds clunky –  most people are forgiving of chunkiness and assume good intent.
  • Picking up the phone works if the relationship matters, or if it might matter in the future. Or where your reputation as a supplier or employer matters.


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See you next week,



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