According to The New York Times, we now officially live in the “golden age of bailing.” We’ve all been there; you’re six episodes deep into Glow and you realize you don’t feel like going to your co-worker’s Christmas in July-themed pool party, so you fire off a quick “Sorry, I can’t make it” text, guilt-free.
What a paradox! That shiny, slim smartphone by your side is capable of bringing people together (you received the invitation to the pool party on Facebook), and yet it’s the very reason we’ve become so accustomed to flaking. However — and this may sound too easy, not to mention retro — it can also be used to bridge the courtesy gap, tighten friendships and connect: Don’t forget that your handheld computer still makes phone calls. I know! I can hear you groaning, but stay with me. Chatting on the phone enhances my life in so many important ways that text messages, emails and G-chatting absolutely can’t.
I cherish the intimacy phone calls bring. My friends lead busy, crazy lives. Getting together for happy hour or brunch isn’t always the easiest or most convenient way to connect, so phone calls are the next best thing to hanging out IRL.
Phone calls save time. It’s much quicker and easier to dial up a friend about dinner plans than it is to volley roughly a million text messages about what we’re in the mood for. Sometimes a two-minute phone call can get the job done better.
I also love the spontaneity of a phone call. It makes my day when my seven-year-old niece drops a line just to say hi or when my mom randomly calls to bounce around theories about the last Game of Thrones episode. It’s a joy to hear their voices unmediated by the flatness of text or email.
Because I work from home, there are days where my longest conversation is with my cat about whether she’s a good girl or not (she is). As an extrovert, it’s a treat when I get to pick up the phone and make customer service calls or schedule doctor’s appointments. It gives me a tiny connection to the outside world. I always try to make the person on the other end of the line laugh and it always feels so rewarding when they do. But if you’re in the other camp — if you’d rather do your own dental work than make a phone call, maybe doing these things will help put you at ease:
Make a phone date (then stick to it)
If possible, agree on a time to talk in advance so you don’t have to worry about catching your buddy when she’s busy. This works especially well for my friends who live in different time zones, have little kids or any other situation where their leisure time is in short supply.
Turn off distractions
Do your best to minimize any other attention stealers. Pause the braid tutorial on YouTube, mute TV and close the laptop. Don’t scroll through Instagram, either. Not only is it inconsiderate to your friend, but it makes it easier to give your full attention, which means you get more out of the interaction.
Be clear about why you’re calling
Be explicit about why you want to chat at the start of the call so that the person on the other end of the line can adjust her expectations accordingly. If you want to vent about your day, say it. If you want to just say hi and have no real agenda, communicate that, too.
Watch the clock
Sure, you can have marathon phone calls with your best friend, but for most people, less is better. Long talk sessions can be overbearing and emotionally draining. Set a time at the beginning of the call so that you both have an “out.”
Practice good listening skills
Since you don’t have facial cues to react to, you have to work a little harder at being an effective listener on the phone. No matter how excited you get, try to let the other person finish her thought before you begin yours. If you’re lost, ask your friend to repeat herself rather than become an “mhm” zombie. Again, this is as much for your friend as it is for your enjoyment. A fun phone call means engaging in actual conversation. And if you feel like you two have said it all…
Know when to end the call
It’s better to have a short and sweet conversation than a dragged-out one. Once you detect the signs — which can be as subtle as a resigned sigh or as overt as a declaration of needing to attend to other things — wrap it up.
Do you despise making phone calls? Or do you love them as much as I do? Anything else you’d suggest to make phone calls a success for everyone involved? Tell us in the comments.
Anna Goldfarb is author of the humor memoir, “Clearly, I Didn’t Think This Through.” She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and their three-legged cat, Eleanor. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram. Photos by Louisiana Mei Gelpi.