RE: Communications, The Fine Art of Voice Mail and Email

Subject: RE: Communications, The Fine Art of Voice Mail and Email
From: "McLauchlan, Kevin" <Kevin -dot- McLauchlan -at- safenet-inc -dot- com>
To: "Janoff, Steven" <Steven -dot- Janoff -at- ga -dot- com>, William Sherman <bsherman77 -at- embarqmail -dot- com>, "techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Sun, 21 Apr 2013 00:48:53 -0400

That's one opinion, alright.

I've never been a fast note-taker, so in some conversations I miss things, or forget this-or-that point by the time I've finished jotting the previous one, and the next-next is already under way.

Or something is said in a multi-person chat, and I have two or three questions, but by the time I've asked and refined one, and perhaps gotten an answer, I've forgotten the other two points that troubled me. If I'd taken the time to jot all three points first, before starting to ask, I would have been interrupting the conversation that had long-since moved on from whatever topic prompted my questions. That annoys people.


Either I ask questions and get answers in e-mail, or I do the same in IM chats, whenever possible. It provides a record of what was said.

If I engage in a hallway conversation or get some facts (?) from a meeting, I follow-up by summarizing my understanding in an e-mail, often adding other thoughts that have occurred to me since the verbal exchange, or to clarify what seemed clear until I tried to write it down... ok, until I type it; I rarely write anymore.

I do often go to an SME's cube, loom until he/she makes eye contact, and then launch into "Picture this... Sicily, 1922..." But after the actual technical Q&A, I say that I'll send them an e-mail with what I think I've just heard... if I can safely get back to my desk before parts of it start to leak out my ears or I get nabbed by somebody else and .... buffer-overflow happens. They usually appreciate that I get the material in order, on 'paper'/electrons, and it gives them a chance to offer further thoughts once they've seen what I think they said, or the emphasis that I seem to have perceived, as opposed to the emphasis that they might prefer me to have gotten.

People in conversations are more likely to say "yeah-yeah" and try to get on with their point, possibly not having heard your actual question while composing their next sentence in their heads. But when you write things down, and they see an error or misconception, they jump to correct it. Nobody wants to have OK'd something in writing, only to find out later that they'd let something egregious slip past and... gasp! ... into the docs!.

Having what the expert said, in writing, is very helpful when somebody else disagrees. It might turn out that one or the other is wrong, but it might be that you/I have missed a nuance, and they are both right, or it might be that both contributors are correct about their own limited view or experience of a larger picture with more variables. It might be that something has changed in the product, and somebody should have been informed, or they missed the implication until I asked the question the right way and realization dawned.

As for voice-mails, short ones are usually not that helpful for technical answers. And long ones can become rambling or repetitive without the discipline of writing.

Yes, I do occasionally have yes/no questions, or questions that need a single fact or number in reply. But more often, it's an understanding or an implication query or a scenario that needs a fair passel of words in response.

It's also usually easier to figure out odd turns of phrase in a respondent's written communication than in a voice-mail or live conversation where the other party has a pronounced accent and/or is a low-talker. You can only say "wha'?" "Pardon?" so many times before it gets ridiculous and exasperating for the other party as well... and then.... "I'll send you an e-mail"... and you can feel the tension flow out of both parties. If it's a voice-mail, all you can do is keep replaying, and keep being frustrated by the same unintelligible bits, and by the annoying interface that forces you to keep going back to the start of a lo-o-o-ong message.

Some exceptions are guys (it's always crusty old guys ... or crusty young guys well on their way to becoming crusty old guys) who answer e-mail or IM questions with clipped, two-word responses. In person, you can ask for clarification and maybe get it after a few tries. In e-mail it can take days to get past the two-worders to a more substantial or deeper or nuanced reply. But in my long experience, that's the minority.

I've equally experienced situations where getting the answer verbally is like pulling teeth - each reply is factual, but insufficient - but in writing, the SME presents organized thoughts that hang together and are understandable. And responds to a request for clarification with... actual clarification.


-----Original Message-----
From: Janoff, Steven
Sent: April-19-13 9:41 PM
To: William Sherman; techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Subject: RE: Communications, The Fine Art of Voice Mail and Email

Leave short voice mails. (For that matter, write short e-mails.)

The best work gets done in one-on-one dialogue in person or over the phone. Through the tangle of ideas you can work out a solution to an issue in a minute or two that would take days of back and forth over e-mail.

I'm currently working with folks who like to use the phone and I love it.

Consider making the phone your friend, with the goal being live dialogue. I have a new respect for the thing. E-mail is a time drain (except when you need to get a message out to multiple people).

Just one person's opinion, of course.


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Communications, The Fine Art of Voice Mail and Email: From: William Sherman
RE: Communications, The Fine Art of Voice Mail and Email: From: Janoff, Steven

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