Recently we had a misunderstanding with someone we have known for a long time regarding a duplicate rent check. When I received an email from them on the issue, I did my research and decided that they were wrong. I then sent them an email and explained – based on my research – why they were wrong.

After I sent the email, I wondered, “Why didn’t they just pick up the phone and talk to me instead of writing an email? We could have quickly resolved the issue through an actual discussion.”

A few days later I received another email from them. With it was attached documentation that showed that I was actually the one who was wrong. I had inadvertently deposited their previous rent check in the wrong account and therefore had not realized that the rent had been paid.

Suddenly I recognized that I should have called them to discuss the situation instead of responding by email. I, too, had fallen into the trap of using email to reply to them instead of picking up the phone and conversing about the issue.

Just last week I was again reminded of the value of a phone call through interaction with one of my new clients. I sent him an email requesting some clarification on some items on his financials. Within minutes, he phoned me back. After a conversation that took less than ten minutes, he had answered all the questions that I had for him.

After the call ended, I could not help but think of how efficient it was to clarify these issues over the phone instead of trying to do it via email. I also realized that I had enjoyed getting to know him better during the phone call.

Recently we started doing more business with a client that we have been working with for about a year. Previously, our interactions with him were via phone, email, and posting of files on Google Drive. As his business has grown exponentially, these methods of communicating became less effective. Finally in early March, I set up a face-to-face meeting with him.

The meeting was extremely productive. Because of that, we met weekly for the rest of the month. When we met last week, he asked me the best way for us to work together going forward. My reply was that – at least for the next few months – we should continue meeting face-to-face weekly. I told him that perhaps in a few months, we could begin meeting every other week. Meeting together will be a much more productive use of time for both of us.

Texting, email and voicemail are great tools. They are effective tools to handle transactions, set appointments, confirm meetings, etc.

As much as I am reluctant to admit it, even social media has a place in keeping you in touch with friends and contacts. It facilitates keeping track of what people are doing and letting you know what is going on in the lives of people you know.

But none of these modern communication conveniences are an effective replacement for face-to-face communication or for phone calls. Direct communication is necessary to keep relationships going.

My wife recently scheduled a phone call with one of her long-time friends who lives out of town. They spent over an hour catching up on each other’s lives. They were able to share what was going on with each of their families. When I talked to my wife that evening, I could tell how much the phone conversation with her friend had meant.

The lesson from my experience with the rent check was a perfect example of the limitations of digital communication. Specifically, digital communication has no role in solving a disagreement or an issue. In fact, the impersonal aspect of this kind of communication tends to fan the fires of a misunderstanding instead of calming the situation and working toward an effective solution.

Similarly, relationships based only on interaction via Facebook, email or texting will not grow into long-term vibrant friendships. Direct contact is needed. Phone discussions can advance relationships. Ultimately, periodic face-to-face meetings are necessary to truly grow relationships. This is true for both personal relationships and business relationships.

When an issue arises or when it is time to enhance a long-term relationship, digital communication has little value.

In fact, there are really only two serious options. One is to pick up the phone. The best option is to meet in person.
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