October 18, 2011

By Ann Waterman


“We-lllll, I guess I’d better let you go now.” If you’ve talked to me on the phone, you’ll know that’s my signature line for ending almost all my calls. I feel bad, but I’m just not much of a phone person — 15 minutes and I’ve usually reached my limit. Phone calls tend to pop up unexpectedly, and I have a hard time dropping something that was on my to-do list and redirecting my attention to something that wasn’t.

It’s gotten worse since I’ve had kids — calls are difficult to take when you’re in the middle of a diaper change. Even if I’m not doing something that involved, I still find phone calls challenging, with the kids rioting in the background; and when I do finally have a free moment, I’m usually exhausted and can barely string words together for a conversation.

My preferred method of communication is email, text, or — as sad as it sounds — Facebook, since none of them requires an immediate response. I can finish what I’m doing and then respond, or if it isn’t urgent I can wait until the kids are down for the night when I don’t have distractions. Written communication also gives me control over the length of the interaction (yes, I admit there’s a bit of a control element at hand here).

In spite of my phone aversion, I recognize that, for some people, the phone is their preferred method of communication, and that sometimes it’s important to hear someone’s voice and talk to them in person. It’s a perfectly legitimate need and one that is necessary sometimes, even for me. Occasionally, a phone call is the most expedient way to resolve an issue rather than long back-and-forth email threads.

So how do you reconcile these two different approaches to communication? This article by Mandi Ehman over at SimpleMom helped shed some light on my dilemma — and apparently, I’m not alone. She describes two different kinds of people: task-oriented and people-oriented. I am most definitely the former — and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. While task-oriented people like me value people, they also value order and productivity. The challenge is to find a balance between the two. In my case, Mandi would suggest scheduling some time on my to-do list to return calls or make calls to friends and family, particularly those who love it when you do.

If you’re people-oriented, but struggle with organization and getting things done, you might want to try breaking projects into smaller parts so they don’t seem as overwhelming, or incorporating people into your work — turn on some fun music and clean the kitchen with your spouse, or fold some clothes while chatting on the phone.

Are you task-oriented or people-oriented? Are you a phone person, or would you rather email someone?

Image: CircaFurniture

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