One of my friends called me last month from out of the blue and it was the weirdest thing because it happened in the middle of the day during the workweek and was totally unexpected.
I later learned he just wanted to say hi, but since we usually communicate via text and email, the direct call, especially given the timing, was a bit intrusive.
He was sent to voicemail.
Most of the time talking on the phone is an inconvenience, especially if we’re driving or in the middle of something that requires our full attention.
And when/ if someone answers a call and subsequently learns it wasn’t urgent, it can be awkward because some people will feel obligated to chat for a while despite realizing they’re dedicating their time to a conversation that didn’t need their attention right away. Moreover, and depending on the circumstance, the caller is encroaching on that person’s time.
These days, a direct, unsolicited call insinuates an immediate demand for another person’s time. And for most of us, that courtesy is extended to very few people, such as one’s parents, significant other, or offspring.
What if someone leaves a voicemail message?
Let’s not forget, most people under 40 rarely check voicemail these days. I’m over 40 but check it once per week at most. If someone needs to talk ASAP and I’m not expecting their call, I’ll assume they’ll text me to say they need to (voice) chat immediately.
And in the rare instance they’re calling from a landline phone and don’t have access to texting, an immediate second call would prompt a physical answer from me. That’s happened to me before and shouldn’t be considered rude under most circumstances.
And yes, there are exceptions to the unwritten rule of texting first
Obviously, texting first shouldn’t be a protocol for everyone and in every situation. My mom and I primarily communicate by phone and talk daily so receiving calls from her is normal and calming, but even she won’t call during the workday unless she needs to convey something important.
Also, not long ago, a childhood friend I seldom communicate with these days called to tell me his mother passed away. After seeing his name on my caller ID, I answered the call immediately because I figured it was critical.
Additionally, if your significant other who calls you daily is ringing you, it’s no big deal if you’ve developed a shared expectation for communicating and it’s mutually understood you’re free to call each other liberally without it being deemed intrusive.
But for most of us old enough to remember life as an adult before texting, there’s an unspoken etiquette these days when communicating. So, if you must audibly speak to someone, shoot them a text first to see if they’re available. If they’re not, simply schedule a time that works for both of you.
Even if you want to meet up with a buddy, it would probably be more convenient for most if you text first. If the receiver doesn’t reply within a reasonable time and after a second text, a follow-up call would certainly be reasonable.
… An initial text message before calling is a polite nudge that shows you respect someone’s time, and it will likely help your relationship with others over the long run.