Jennifer B. Davis
I used to think I was the only one with this problem, but during a recently conversation with some friends, I found out I am not alone. This has prompted me to confess: I hate voice mail. In fact, I really don't like talking on the phone at all. There I have said it. I am email person.

Blame it on working for a software company early in my career (in my formative professional years) or because I always feel like I am interupting something when I call people. In any case, I would much rather exchange email then play phone mail tag. I would much rather drop someone a note, then give them a call and risk them not being home, not being available to chat, in short wasting their time (or mine).

Once I sat across from a colleague who was also an emailer. Even though we worked only a few yards from each other, we found that it was often more convenient to email. It allowed us to communicate asynchronistically (like when one of us was in a meeting), allowed us to copy others into the thread that weren't within earshot of our actual conversations, and allows us to include references like links and graphics that would have been hard in a face-to-face conversation.

So, I heard something advertised today that just might be the perfect tool for someone like me. It is calld Simulscribe and it converts your voice mail messages to text messages and emails them to you (or SMS to your cell phone, if you callers doing ramble). Has anyone used this or other tools of this sort? I am wondering how long it will be before one of the "phone companys" that are also into hand-held or data services offer a phone plan that isn't a phone plan at all: it is just voice-to-text message services.

Now, I understand that many of my close friends are phone people. I like them. I admire their commitment to building relationships, resolving conflict, and reaching out. I know that email isn't an appropriate medium for lots of messages (ie, "we should start seeing other people," "You're Fired," and "the lump looks suspicious" come to mind), but for 90% of things you want to say, email works fantastic!

There are whole industries that have not recognized or served people like me. The medical profession for one. I can not go online to book an appointment with my doctor or dentist. They don't confirm or reschedule via email. They won't answer routine questions via email. The same for the hair salon. As if it wasn't inconvenient enough to go to these places, they make it even more so by not letting "non-phone" people make appointments or find out your stylist's hair gel recommendation. I hope some of these folks are reading and can see that they have an underserved population (that is growing, I suspect) that could be effectively targeted with a few services that don't rely on the phone.

If they can figure that out, perhaps someone can also invent a dynamic voice mail recordings that connect to your Outlook calendar to provide daily personalization to your message: "Hello, you have reached Jennifer Davis. It is Monday, August 30th and I am in the office..." It always bugged me that I had to enter conflicts on my calendar and then record a duplicate message on my phone. But then again, I am not a phone person.
5 Responses
  1. kristi w Says:

    Oh, AMEN and AMEN! I would be happy to not have a phone at all. I get a sense of dread every time it rings. Then I have a quick debate if I am in the middle of anything (feeding baby, cooking dinner, etc.) - do I punt it to voicemail, which means I will have to not only listen to that voice mail, but will probably have to return a call as well OR do I answer it and risk getting trapped in a long-ish conversation? I really don't like making calls. Usually people are doing something that I am interrupting. Email or even chat allows us all to respond when we are most able to focus. Another bonus for us internal processing types, we are able to take time to think through responses prior to opening our mouths (or keyboards, as it were).


  2. Anonymous Says:

    sean would confirm that i hate talking on the phone. mostly because many jobs i've had required near constant phone use (mainly medical clinics). aside: why do people have such long greetings for their voice mail?

    and then there is my dislike of human interaction of that sort.

    but then, i'm really cautious about what shows up in print. it brings "he said, she said" to a whole new level.

    i don't answer the phone unless i am ready at that moment to talk, and i figure if it is important enough they'll leave a voice mail, of which i will listen to the first ten seconds for expressed urgency.

    but then, i don't field a lot of calls these days because of my job and i give out sean's number because he likes to talk on the phone, and talking in general.

    voice or text or spam or 'forwards': i'd still have it interrupting, though i read faster than i hear, i still have to delete. i'd rather have an executive assistant.


  3. Davis Family Says:

    I am with you on the executive assistant, Leslie!

    A colleague reminded me of a legitimate phone use today...when you are meeting someone for coffee and are lost or running late. Perhaps there is a special text page for that? :)


  4. Anonymous Says:

    Ah, I am not alone. I come from a chatty family, that loves the phone. My tendency to let the answering machine pick up is touchy subject and I am sure it has hurt feelings in the past. (Don't get me wrong. I love talking face-to-face; I generally like people.) I often explain to my phone-friendlies that I am pretty faithful via email, especially considering my Mom hours may be different let's say, from a single friend's peak hours. I particularly wish I could email directly with my doctor's assistant. It seems silly to me that I must talk to a receptionist who passes a message on to the medical assistant who speaks to the doctor while I wait near a phone lest I end up repeating the cycle if I miss her call. On the bright side, I love emailing the kids' teachers. I feel I can zip a short message or check in without interrupting their day or relying on my 5 year old to pass a crucial note. Great post.


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