Why a Phone Call Creates Stronger Bonds than Written Communication

Emails and chat messages are quick and easy communication options. Yet, we’re in a remote and socially isolated work scenario going on for far too long now. Let’s not overlook the impact of hearing your colleague’s voice on the other end of a phone call! Do it for your productivity and to create stronger bonds with your team.

Why a Phone Call Creates Stronger Bonds than Written Communication

The power of a phone call

In a study from the Journal of Experimental Psychology, researchers found that 67 percent of participants initially preferred to communicate with another person over a text-based platform. However, they reported feeling more connection and engagement in a phone conversation than they otherwise would have on an email or chat thread.

The auditory experience of interacting with a human voice is key for social bonding, researchers indicate. Even without the visual cues of a face-to-face conversation, talking on the phone allows people to make sense of the vocal and paralinguistic inflections. Tone, pitch, volume, pauses, word emphasis, all these can’t be replicated in writing.

These audio cues strengthen interpersonal connections and bring clarity to both the speaker and listener. And this in turn lowers the risk of miscommunication. Before you fire off a mass email to your team, here are some reasons to call them on the phone instead.

It’s less mentally draining than video

While a video conference might seem like the best alternative to an onsite meeting, this mode of communication has its drawbacks too. If you pivoted to remote or hybrid work in the last two years, chances are, you’re all too familiar with video fatigue. This mental exhaustion is due to the increased cognitive load that team members often experience in video meetings, suggests Jeremy Bailenson, a professor of communications at Stanford University.

Factors such as excessive eye contact, limited mobility and prolonged self-evaluation are inevitable on a video call, but they’re unnatural in normal human interactions. What’s more, if you’re distracted or doing something else, the other person can see that.

When it comes to voice calls, however, the conversation is perceived as, and can feel more, connected. A phone call frees both you and the other person to carry on with other aspects of work or daily life, while still feeling heard and actively contributing to the conversation. In addition, all you have to focus on is the information being communicated. There’s no mental strain as a result of excessive eye contact, movement constraints, and personal scrutiny.

It helps decrease social isolation

The shift to virtual business operations has left many employees feeling isolated from their colleagues. In a remote or hybrid environment, relationship-building seems far more difficult than in face to face interactions.

However, research from JAMA Psychiatry found that phone calls help alleviate social isolation and other related mental health concerns such as depression or anxiety. This study emphasized the importance of forming psychological safety in a phone conversation by:

  • Asking open questions
  • Allowing time for a response
  • Elaborating for clarity
  • Welcoming feedback
  • Demonstrating that you understand the other person

These conversational cues are vital for solidifying trust, camaraderie and alignment, all of which help break down the location barriers of a scattered workforce.

Schedule time for regular phone call check-ins, rather than video chats and encourage your team members to do the same.

It creates more clarity

Writing lacks the tonal clues that your brain uses to interpret meaning in a face-to-face conversation. As such, written communication can often lead to miscommunication. Liz Fosslien, the Head of Content at Humu and Mollie West Duffy, an organizational development expert and consultant, explain in their Harvard Business Review article:

  • Sentences that begin with “Per my last email” or “Help me understand” can be read as passive aggressive.
  • Certain punctuation marks such as exclamation points can feel too intense or unprofessional.
  • Short, terse chat memos such as “Let’s chat” can fuel anxiety since the recipient has no further context to pull from.

Phone calls, on the other hand, are often much more effective for communicating your point and making sure an employee or coworker doesn’t misunderstand your intentions. Most digital miscommunication occurs because recipients can’t access nonverbal cues through emails or chats, Fosslien and West Duffy explain. However, these cues are essential for providing both clarity and emotional context.

Use the phone to deliver information clearly and precisely, while reducing the risk of miscommunication and conflict on your team.

Pick up the phone!

Email and chat do have their place in the workplace and they’ve become irreplaceable these days. Yet don’t dismiss the value of connecting over a phone call!

Many choose written communication for its convenience and efficiency. However, social bonds are strengthened over the phone, making a phone call another important tool for boosting connection among your team.

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