Why GenY Hates Phones

June 16, 201171 Comments

The more I interact with baby-boomers,¹ the more I learn of their frustration with GenY (my generation). Now, there is no shortage of reasons why the previous generation throws their hands up in frustration at GenY, but perhaps one of the more nuanced ones is the communication breakdown. I’ve been told a number of times “I call, I leave messages, and he doesn’t return my phone calls. My own son – won’t even call his father back.” Similiar situations arise in business – “If he wanted to keep us as a customer, he would pick up the phone and call once in a while.” This can be heartbreaking, or offensive – but it shouldn’t be. You see, it’s not talking to you on the phone that we hate – it’s talking on the phone in general.

How can this be? Indeed, the phone was a revolutionary transformation of communication, for both personal and business uses. If you think the migration from email to Twitter or Facebook transformed the speed and frequency of interaction, imagine the migration from snail-mail and telegraphs to the telephone. And you say OUR generation proliferated instant gratification? ² Nonetheless, the majority of us can’t stand the phone – especially not for business matters.

So why do we hate the phone? Well, it’s a matter of convenience. You see, when you engage someone in a phone conversation, it’s perhaps the most selfish means possible. Chances are, it’s not a scheduled phone call – I personally don’t mind those nearly as much, because expectations have been set and schedules cleared. No, it’s probably a random phone call, which means you expect the recipient to drop everything and pick up the phone, simply because you have time to talk now. You wouldn’t step into my office, plunk down, and say “give me 20 minutes of your undivided attention”… Would you? Of course, if it’s an urgent matter, they will have time to talk, too. And please understand, their hesitance to speak to you is probably not a reflection of how they perceive or value you (indeed, I am averse to sitting on the phone with family and friends, too). But truthfully, well, you are probably interrupting something. People just don’t sit in an office waiting for phone calls like they used to. We’re busier than ever – all of us – and we embrace unique workflows. Each of us is different, with different peak hours. I am most productive in the afternoon – but you may be most productive in the morning. If we’re going to talk on the phone, one of us will have to compromise or communicate outside of our peak performance window.

Perhaps more importantly, you are demanding nearly undivided attention. Of course, it’s important that people offer this kind of respect to one another – but typically, if you are going to command it, you should have the courtesy to choose a time that works for both of us. By contrast, if you need my immediate attention and choose to seek it via instant message, text message, or any other form of written communique, I am able to weave in and out of our conversation without disrespecting you or creating awkward pauses. Thus, if I’m otherwise engaged, I can satisfy your need for my attention and information with minimal sacrifice or lost productivity on my behalf.

Immediate responses come from years of experience and accumulated knowledge. By definition, our age group has neither of these things.

Last, but certainly not least, is that a phone conversation requires immediate response. And to be honest, most of us GenYers aren’t good at that. Immediate responses come from years of experience and accumulated knowledge. By definition, our age group has neither of these things. So we research. We Google. We Wikipedia. We read blogs. We plan our responses. Though we are still the product of a dated educational system based on rote memorization and old-world research, we thrive on resourcefulness and the plethora of information we’ve always had at our fingertips. Phone conversations, by their nature, don’t allow ample pause. They put us on the spot.

Of course, there is still tremendous value to hearing someone’s voice. Perhaps, then, it is more prudent to invoke an even older means of communication; face-to-face contact. If geography prevents you from breaking bread with a GenYer you work with, then schedule a FaceTime or Skype call. State the expected time requirement, and they will most likely be happy to commit. Furthermore, you’ll be able to communicate nonverbally; you should all know by now how important smiling is.

And if you really need immediate access, and can’t be bothered to type, tweet, or text, then all hope is not lost. A free new service, called HeyTell,³ offers instant voice-messaging, similar to a walkie-talkie, which can be heard and responded to at the recipient’s earliest convenience. See, there is such a thing as a happy medium.

Thank you, as always, for reading, commenting, sharing, and supporting. If you liked this article, please make sure to follow me on Twitter!
JL

¹ For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term, a “baby boomer” is someone born in the post-war population spike after WWII. They are the parents of GenYers, and are generally 50-60 years of age now.
² Ok, so we did proliferate it. But we didn’t invent it.
³ Credit owed to my friends Alexa and Eric, who persuaded me to look into this service.
  • Rachel C Vane

    Jonathan,

    Thank you for this post. I’m a little older than you (technically GenX), but I feel the same way! Especially about a immediate response – you gave voice to something I had only identified in myself as irritating, but could not pinpoint why. I like to research and prepare. I like scheduled calls. Plus, I work from home and I have an infant. So, if you call me unannounced, I am likely to be busy. That being said, many times I do drop everything for my baby boom clients and pick up the phone. :)

    • J. Levi

      Thanks for the reply and the support Rachel! I’m glad it resonated with you. It means I’m not the only one who is testy on the phone :)

  • http://bnotd.blogspot.com Anselm

    JL-

    This is brilliant. I never thought about it, but I think you’re certainly on to something.

    I think there might be more to this, too- I think the older generation didn’t necessarily grow up with things like email and IM, so to them phone calls still smack of “the proper way to do things”- to younger people, that’s less the case.

    On the other hand, I think that younger people may have less training or experience fewer expectations to just shut up and jump when we’re told- we’re more likely to have our own workflows and guard that jealously, rather than trying to mold ourselves into the expected work flow of an office- if we even know what that workflow is!

    Great post.

    • J. Levi

      Thank you!

  • Michael Hudec

    You hit it on the head with the “on the spot” comment. I often let calls go in order to do a bit of prep, research, and then call back, thus putting the other person at the disadvantage of being on the spot once I have my whole conversation mapped out in my head. Text and email is far less personal, but you have an indefinite amount of time to tweak it in just the right way, where on the phone you’re always under the gun to provide a response immediately into the next pause.

    • J. Levi

      Absolutely, I couldn’t agree more. Sometimes, if I can’t avoid a phone call, I’ll ask people for a list of talking points they hope to accomplish on a call. Not only does that keep us on task, it also allows me to do my recon work ahead of time!

  • Kate

    Funny you should write this. I was having a face to face conversation with a friend and I said “My kids never return my phone calls, but if I text I get an immediate response”. I’m sooooo slow at texting so it’s easier for me to pick up the phone. But you know, I go with the flow…….

    • J. Levi

      Try out google voice – you can set up a phone number that allows you to text from your web browser with your keyboard :)

  • DC

    Wonderful article! Thank you for explaining eloquently what I have been trying to explain to my aunt for years.

  • Lynn T

    I’m an X’er too and I HATE talking on the phone, something my dad can not understand. I’m fine talking to people in person or doing my business online (preferred!) but never answer the phone if I can get away with it.
    Nice to find out that I’m not alone as I thought I was just very anti-social :)

  • http://www.txtriffidranch.com Paul Riddell

    I’m at the older end of Gen X, and I feel the same way as you. It’s not just that the phone apparently emits pheromones that compel people to call at exactly the worst time, like when I’m repotting plants for a sale and I’m literally armpit-deep in peat moss and mud. No, it’s that the calls come down to two things: “I’m bored,” or “I want to sell you something.”

    With E-mail, it’s easy to deal with the sales issues. You look at the letter, see if it’s something you need, and respond accordingly. If it’s something that’s insanely inappropriate, then it gets deleted, and neither party worries about it. With a phone call, I’m not only usually hit at a terrible time, but then I’m the one who has to explain to the caller that any chance of making a sale was crippled right then by the call itself. And this is with stuff that I might actually want: when my old bank imploded, I found myself with a credit card through Chase, and I received regular calls asking if I were interested in getting a matching bank account through Chase. I finally had to tell the last person who called “It’s nothing personal, and I know you’re only doing your job. However, I want to state for the record that I do not want to be contacted again about this, and if I am, I’m canceling my card at that moment and using your name as the reason why. I figure that any company that doesn’t respect your notes stating ‘DO NOT CALL’ isn’t one I want to deal with.”

    With the first, though, it’s worse. I detest cell phone calls while driving with a blue-hot rage, and I refuse to pick up until I’ve stopped. (I used to work for a customer service center, and I was a third party to at least one accident because of morons who thought they could punch in numbers to pay their electric bill and drive to work at the same time.) Solicitor callers will usually leave a message. Bored friends and relatives won’t stop there. If they don’t get you then, they’ll keep calling back, again and again, and texting on top of that until you stop and answer. Then, when you fear that the return call will have some version of “the biopsy is positive” in it, just by the way the caller keeps going at it, you return the call and the answer is “I’m bored. Howya doin’?”

    (I won’t even get into the general rudeness of far too many cell phone users. The last thing I want is to be associated, however peripherally, with the horseface at the post office or grocery store who can’t be bothered to put down her phone when at the counter. Instead, she keeps blathering away, pointing and grunting like a caveman at what she wants, and getting angry when the clerk doesn’t turn on the telepathy switch and pull what she wants directly out of her microscopic brain. Do NOT get me going about the hipsters who can’t be bothered to turn the phone off in movie theaters, bookstores, or other places where they aren’t the absolute center of attention.)

    I specifically refused to get a cell phone until last year, when my wife nagged me to death about “how am I supposed to get in touch with you in an emergency?” Guess what? No emergencies, but lots of “Whatchadooin’?” calls. You have no idea, NO IDEA, how badly I want to throw that damn phone off a cliff and tell people “Pretend it’s 1982. If you want to talk to me, use smoke signals and carrier pigeons, the way I did when I was in high school.”

    • J. Levi

      Interesting to hear your perspective, Paul. Thank you! I thought I was further on the “hating phones” spectrum, but I see your aversion is pretty serious! You must have been really happy when email caught on as a popular form of communication! Thanks for reading.

  • Randall

    35 years old here, whatever ‘gen’ that makes me. This annoys the crap out of me about GenY. Texting is the slowest freaking form of communication since snail mail. It’s painfully, painfully oh god painfully slow. Typing is slow. God, it’s slow. Slower than a dead text slow. Just answer the damn phone and what would be three hours of texting back in forth is done in 3 mins. If you ant to talk about convenience, talk about how long it takes to get any meaningful data conveyed in a timely manner.

    • J. Levi

      In some cases, I move to agree. I like to respond to people using Google Voice – so I can type on my keyboard and they can text on their phone, if they want to :)

    • BZ

      I whole-heartedly agree. Speaking on the phone is so much more efficient. The delayed ping-pong if text and email drags a simple 2-minute conversation out for hours or days. Honestly, aversion to live conversation reveals weak interpersonal communication skills.

      If it’s a business call, you should know what they’re calling about, or put them on hold while you look it up.

      If it’s a personal call, then you should be able to multitask. Multitasking while on the phone is a skill Gen-X mastered in Jr. High.

      Boomers shouldn’t fear text or email. Gen-Y shouldn’t avoid the phone. Versatility is the road to advancement.

      • J. Levi

        Great reply, I agree with all of the above!

        • Sam

          I don’t get how you can agree that texting is slow, inefficient and generally sucks and then in the whole article espouse texting and email as manna from heaven. I understand the issue of speaking to people when it is convenient but let’s face it that is what caller id is for. Text etc especially for personal communication is the worst.

    • http://www.emilythings.com Emily

      Texting is SO much faster than talking. I can text everything I possibly want to say in a paragraph and text it in less than a minute. Most GenYs can too, if not all.

  • http://itsatechlife.wordpress.com Martin

    Wow. Definitely posting on Facebook. I’m bad at describing things, but maybe this will help some people understand why I hate talking on the phone. Thanks!

    • J. Levi

      Thanks for sharing Martin, I really appreciate it!

  • Loretta

    Although I’m on the young end of the boomers (born in 1962), I still feel exactly as you do. Perhaps working in high tech for so long (25 years) where computing was commonplace and email became a mainstay in the 80′s enabled me to adopt the mindset of why call when email will document the conversation? I think for me it has to do with exactly what you said, I want to feel prepared, and when typing something out, whether it be email or texting, I have the ability to not only research, but then review what I have written, and wordsmith as appropriate, which we cannot do when in the moment talking on the phone. I agree with your point of having a scheduled call, that is fine with me as long as there is an agenda provided by either me or the other party, so we can focus on what we need to accomplish and not get sidetracked. When I moved out of high tech into business consulting, it became clear to me that my way of doing business needed to change outside of the high tech world. While email, text and IM are commomplace in high tech, they are not so much in other industries, especially when working with boomers. While the companies have these tools, the boomers really prefer a phone call or face-to-face. I have had to be flexible in my approach to communication depending on the client’s industry and the age / communication style of those I’m working with. I actually prefer to work with younger folks because they are so much more comfortable doing business electronically.

    • CarrieG

      Totally agree with you. I’m also about the same age as Loretta and definitely feel the same way. You have to adjust for the folks who aren’t in the tech world, but I do prefer working with the younger groups just because they are so much more efficient with using electronic communications.

  • Gina

    I appreciate the insight of this phenomenon from the inside. I am another generation up from some of the commenters (age 45) but not quite baby boomer and am still attached to phone calls. I think part of the dislike for the phone is because of cell phones and the expectation that you must be available at all times. When phones first showed up it was a big deal to get a phone call so that sort of attitude of jumping to get the phone was appropriate. But the attitude didn’t change as phones became more a part of day to day life. I grew up with landlines and during office hours, you expected to need (and want) to answer the phone and the same for when you were home. I resisted getting a cell phone for many years because I considered (and a large number of my peers) them leashes and saw the requirement of being available at all times, not just when we were near a phone.

    Over time I have developed the working process of when I am not in the mood or in a place to give my attention to the phone, I don’t answer it. I refuse to be available at all times. I appreciate voice mail for this reason. Also caller ID. Sometimes it is annoying to go through the process of checking my messages but I remind myself that it is a choice and at the time that was my preference to pass on the call.

    I don’t care for txt message on my cell phone because the silly thing still interrupts me just like I have an incoming call. When I check, it usually is very short and either not enough information or information that doesn’t have any urgency and I could come across it later. I think this issue could be taken care of by being able to adjust how my cell phone treats txts but it sounds like the younger generations have adapted a different way of working with it so my method would be for a minority and won’t probably show up. (Just for reference, I want my cell phone to work as a phone, not the 101 things most cell phones do better than making calls.)

    I do like being able to compose and think things out which working from a keyboard gives me. Email has become important for my communication style. But I do miss the feeling of connection I get from chatting on the phone. There are times when dealing with issues via email makes things worse and phones calls are more direct and clear things up quicker. Other times, email makes somethings safe and it works better (I have been working on things with my mother and email has been a godsend).

    I Love Love Love being between activities and having the ability to call someone to chat if they have the time and inclination. It is great to be able to not be tied to a landline and be productive while being social with someone I don’t get to see face to face (usually due to distance). No amount of text based, time delayed communication would work for this and it isn’t something that feels right when scheduled. This might be a left over from hanging out as teenagers on the phone for hours. For this process to be good, it is important that the person who receives the call feel ok to say it is not a good time for them. Politeness habits tend to get in the way of this.

    All in all, I think the baby boomers see phone calls as an increase in being able to connect with people than how it was before and txting is to impersonal. I can see that the newer generations are able to feel that connectedness via txt and view the phone as annoying. Thanks for the insight.

  • joshua

    Great post! i totally agree. (yet another genXer who agrees)

  • http://www.charlesmryan.com Charles Ryan

    Great insight. It’s interesting: In business, I actually look forward to scheduled calls, as a great time to plow through a bunch of issues much faster and with greater clarity and shared understanding than you can usually get through email. But I absolutely hate picking up the phone to make an unscheduled call; I’d much rather email. And it has nothing to do with how much I like the person at the other end; I have some close personal friends as clients, and it’s as true for them as it is for strangers. I think your analysis explains a lot.

    (I’m solidly Gen X, by the way, so this isn’t just a Gen Y thing.)

    • http://www.mycollegesandcareers.com/blog Sarah Says

      Yes, scheduled calls are a very effective use of time.

      What’s even worse than an unexpected call is an ambiguous voicemail. “Call me, I have something I want to talk to you about…” Tell me what it is and I’ll decide whether it warrants the time!

  • Vicki

    I’m sorry, but I find the reasoning that phone conversation is intrusive a rather lame excuse for avoiding speaking directly with someone. Just call them back if you’re busy. And if you require 2 hours in order to perform research, frame a response, and construct a cohesive sentence, well, that’s a bit sad, too. Life is about real conversations with real people and no, it isn’t always convenient, is sometimes uncomfortable, and in some situations anything less than a direct conversation is a cop out.

    • http://www.ripitgood.net Calophi

      I think you are forgetting that this post was made regarding business calls primarily. It really is rude to be in a line of work where you have may clients and one of them wants you to drop other client work to talk to them on an unscheduled call that you weren’t prepared for, so then the call takes even longer than it would have if it had been scheduled.

  • Rachel

    Phone calls can be interrupting yes, and come at the most inconvenient at times, but I have noticed that a great many people will stop in the middle of ANYTHING they are doing — bathroom, driving, a face-to-face conversation, etc. — to read and answer a text. Not only can it be tremendously rude to the person the texter is actually with, it can be extraordinarily dangerous. One can ignore a phone call just as easily as one should be able to ignore a text, and get back to either later. This whole “not a good time” thing is just as true for texting as phones.
    As for not knowing how to answer immediately: I do wonder how all those old folks managed way back when, to get enough knowledge and experience to ever talk on the phone? Believe me, they were talking on the phone in their teens and twenties–even professional level calls–and they somehow managed.
    And, while I’ll take your point that there are many types of business questions and other information passing situations where a text or email would serve better than a call, I don’t think ANY of your reasons excuse you from calling your father. He doesn’t need statistics, numbers, cited resources or exact data. He just wants to hear your voice. Because he’s your father. So call him already, okay? If it’s not convenient, he’ll tell you, and you can set up another time then.
    Some things you do just because you love the person who wants you to do, and a phone call ain’t all that much.

  • Jessica

    I’m a GenYer, and yes, people who are too rude to text and ask if it’s a good time to call annoy the crap out of me.

    I deal with both people to whom texting is second nature, and those who are a bit older, but because the vast majority of my friends and family text, I am in the mode of answering any call that I notice coming in (usually I keep my ringer off, so I miss most calls) as if it might be an emergency, because why else would they call in the middle of the work day?

    I might be in a meeting. I might be in the middle of an important face-to-face conversation. I might be driving. I might be asleep. (It takes, what, 20 seconds at most to text me a simple, “Hey, is it too late to call?” If I don’t respond, the answer is yes. I don’t want to be awakened unless it’s an emergency.)

    The arrogance of assuming I should drop everything to take your call when it’s not an emergency (and half the time, when I DO answer it, it’s a Y/N question that I could have answered discreetly via text without interrupting my meeting to take your call) boggles me.

    Face-to-face communication is the best form of interaction, followed by email/text.

    Phones are an uncomfortable hybrid — I can hear emotion in people’s voices, but I don’t have the visual cues to actually read them well. I’ve been in tons of phone meetings where people ended up frustrated and angry with each other and I’m not sure either party totally understood why. Either give me email/text, which we all expect to be fairly emotionless, or give me real face time so I can read and respond to you authentically, without feeling like I’m blind.

    If there *is* something we need to talk about on the phone (because we can’t physically be in the same location to talk in person and it’s too complicated to relegate to text), do me the basic courtesy of sending me a text to determine a good time for the conversation.

    • vron

      This attitude strikes me as just as arrogant. Maybe it’s because my job is chiefly in customer service** — and the attitude that I would need to text somebody for permission to call them is really off-putting. If you aren’t in a position to take a call, let it go to voice mail and THEN GET BACK TO YOUR CALLER.

      (** actually, ALL business is about customer service, and if you don’t agree, I don’t want to do business with you)

      Frankly, I’m an boomer/xwer (age50), and I call only if you haven’t answered my email or text. And if you don’t take my call, I come to your cubicle personally. And if I’m calling you on a personal matter (like if you’re my friends), I’m (and nobody in my generation is either) not offended at “This isn’t a good time, can you call back?”

      But that’s the thing in general about this reasoning — and how Un-customer oriented this is. IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU, JESSICA. It’s about what mode of communication is best for the person trying to get a hold of you. If your caller prefers phone, and it’s not a good time for you, let it go to VM. Or answer it and tell them — “I’m working with another client/account/issue right now, may I call you back in [acceptable time frame]”

      Allie has hit it on the mark: she found out from her SO (or this may have been her customer) what mode of communication he prefers and she adapted to it. That’s a considerate approach and she nailed it right there: it’s why they’re still together.

      • Ramstrong

        Great article. I will only add that I can speed read 10 emails in the time I get to say “Sorry, I’m busy reading email right now. Can you wait until I’m done?”

        Vron’s attitude sums up my hatred toward his generation. I can’t believe he’s seriously suggesting VM will take care of it since if I didn’t return his call in a timely manner, he’ll come to my cubicle anyway!

        Even though I have been known to carry 3 different conversations at once, there are things that cannot be interrupted. Dealing with complex problem as software engineer, for example. Have you ever interrupted a chess player in a match game before? Did you get dirty looks afterwards? Bingo.

        You expect me to accomodate you? I can’t. It will cut down my productivity level tenfold! How about you accomodate my way of working instead?

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  • andy

    Right there with you. Detest talking on the phone. The selfish, interruptive nature of it is spot on. I can’t stand when someone I am trying to do business with stops to answer a phone call on the gamble that the caller is more important than me. You put good words to the being put on the spot feeling too.

    For those of you who feel like the phone is more efficient, that’s why voice mail was invented. I get that texting is slow (I don’t text either, but I do IM and email), so respect your need to convey a message quickly. Leave a message. My voice mail actually does speech to text translation so I can read your message. Best for both of us. As J says, if we must talk, then let’s plan it, have an agenda and be prepared.

    IM -> immediate, non-preemptive
    Email -> non-immediate, non-preemptive
    Phone -> immediate, preemptive
    Txt -> like email, but too short for complete thoughts.

    It truly is hard to put down all the different pieces of work I’m juggling to deal with just one that probably isn’t top of mind. If it’s an emergency, of course, interrupt by all means. If not, have more respect for how I need to manage my time.

    • J. Levi

      I love it! thanks for your comment!

  • Adam M O’Neill

    Great article, I’ve always hated the phone but could never explain why, thanks for clearing it up.

  • Mike

    Here’s the flipside of it: I’m at the tail end of the Boomers (50 currently). While I recognize (and to some extent agree with) the sentiment about phones being very interrupt driven, there’s another side to it:

    There is no emotion, no /connection/ in written word. You can’t hear the overtones being used by the other person, and it’s very hard to make sure you have 100% clarity in both directions without that personal touch.

    This is not always true, but when you consider the fact that the written word has become a lost art in many ways, it often is.

    I hate texting. The keyboards are tiny, and it takes forever to convey the simplest thought. I’ve had “Hi Fred, want to grab lunch? “Sure! Feel like a burger?” “Naw, how about pizza.” “Hrm – Burrtios?” “Suits. Meet you at XX:YY” Take an HOUR in text.

    Now I grant you there’s another factor – I run websites for a living – if I hear a text message, my instant first thought is “What’s down?”, so it’s far MORE interrupt driven.

    Not saying right or wrong, but certainly another side of the coin.

  • jon

    Thanks for the article.. very interesting insight to understanding GenY, and I’ll take it into consideration.

    I’m personally a GenX’er myself, and I think there’s another aspect of respect missing from GenY’s response to ‘older’ forms of communication. As you mentioned, GenY is missing years of experience and expertise… but it’s that same experience that the older ‘Gen’s are offering when they call. Your refusal to answer is telling us. “Thanks, I’ll figure out what I need on Google and Wikipedia to solve my problem. I DON’T NEED YOU.” Whether that’s the intention of GenY or not.. that’s the message we understand.

    We come from the generations which tell us that human connection is important… and talking together to work problems out is about more than just solving a simple problem… It’s about building a relationship. I realize this paradigm may go by the wayside in the future (and it would be a sad loss in my opinion). But the Babyboomers and GenXers still have all the cash at the moment. If GenY wants to carry the torch, they should at very least pay the respect to pick up the phone once in a while.

  • http://blog.sinthetik.com Andrew C.

    Nuts to “emotional connection” or the supposed efficiency of simply picking up the phone – I do my best to insist upon having all of my communication electronically for one simple reason: Cover Your Ass.

    I have dealt with enough treachery from folks across all age spectrums (whether intentionally or accidentally invoked) to value the ability to have those communications at hand instantly far more than any benefit a direct phone call might provide. There are exceptions, of course – but when it comes to the professional arena, I won’t move forward without an electronic copy of that information (be it an e-mail or a trouble-ticket submitted).

    And for all of that, I am very well known in my profession for having top-notch customer service & people skills. Folks, you can balance both – but if I had to choose one over the other? Always electronic, every time.

    • J. Levi

      That’s an excellent point I didn’t even touch on. Any time there is conflict or the potential for a misunderstanding, I want the communique in writing. Thanks for sharing Andrew!

      • vron

        True that, but what’s wrong with ending the conversation with “OK, I’m going to summarize what we discussed/agreed in an email and get that out to you all in the next [acceptable time frame]– email me back if I didn’t get it right or missed something. Thanks!”

        • RKMK

          Sure, we can do that, but it’s not exactly efficient. “Hey, let’s talk for an hour after you put me on the spot, and then I have to take god-knows-how-long to summarize what we just talked about!” It’s redundant, and therefore DOUBLY time-consuming on my end. Just put it in a gaddamn email in the first place.

  • http://www.JiveandWail.com Jonathan Lindberg

    I must now forward this to my entire family!!! (Note: I will not be calling them to explain why I’m not the easiest person to catch via phone.) Great article, from one JL to another!

  • http://www.IntuitionAndAnswers.com JanetThomas

    Wow! Interesting insight. I haven’t seen it discussed before.

    I’m too old to qualify as any kind of a “Gen”-er, but this describes me to a “T”. I’m happy to take phone calls when they’re scheduled and I’m prepared for them, but for casual chatting? Gimme a keyboard instead!

  • R. Ibarra

    Very good post! At some point, it becomes an “art” to juggle communication means with different “Gens”, I suppose. I have come to realize that even with some early Gen Xers do tend to be stuck with the Baby-boomers and DEMAND that voice-to-voice interaction while the rest of my friends and family are happy with the “status update”. My phone bill is perfect example: My mom uses the majority of our “shared” minutes while I use the majority of text, internet browsing and bandwidth. When my mom calls me, my world stops… figuratively and literally. :)

  • Not Sure

    interesting read, it appears the author has a lot of free time because they are busy dodging phone calls while attempting to ‘multitask’. If you don’t want to talk to someone, don’t answer the phone… Devaluing a personal conversation with a family member because you are ‘too busy’ is sad.

  • http://athmassage.com Allie H.

    I have never been good at tracking the generational lines – but I think my boyfriend and I are sitting on the cusp of genX to genY being 36 and 34 respectively.

    Thank you writing this article! My boyfriend is a poster child for your article. When we first stated dating we talked on the phone a lot, but after a couple weeks he gave me a “heads up” that he really hates the phone. That it’s not me and I adapted – which is why we are still dating today. I love to text and email but unlike my s.o. I more like the boomers in that I have been heard (often) to say “Sorry to call out of the blue but text is driving me crazy” or “Glad I got your voicemail I am driving and can’t text right now but wanted to answer xyz…”. If someone calls me out of the blue I can pop in my bluetooth and keep right on moving.

    My thank you though is because the best “why” I have ever gotten out of my s.o. about his aversion to the phone is something like “when I started out in this career I had a headset attached to my head 8 to 10 hours a day, 5 days a week and I remain burnt out.” He has since climbed the corporate ladder and no longer does phone duty quite so much but he remains burnt. I always felt there had to be a little something more to it and now I get it. :)

  • Will

    Sorry, but I disagree with the conclusions and reasoning here (although I see the behavior listed here and it frustrates me). I don’t know what gen I fall into X or Y at 40, but I have been working in hi-tech for a long time, so I consider myself “above the curve” when it comes to the use of tehcnology.

    first – Just because your phone rings, does not mean that you have to answer it. If it’s inconvenient at that time, then let it go to voicemail and call back later.
    If you do pick up your phone, then I expect you to pay attention to our conversation (or to tell me that you can’t pay attention and we’ll have to talk later – which is also acceptable)

    second – texting is NOT an acceptable alternative to speaking to someone. Email can be… but many nuances of actual conversation get lost or misinterpreted in email…

    third – people seem to be under the impression that, if I email them, they can take their sweet time in answering (as you actually suggest). For general stuff, that may be acceptable. However, normally, if I am communicating with you and asking questions, then I want/need an answer. I don’t want to wait two hours to hear back from you… (although, again, an immediate response of “I’ll have to check into that and get back to you” goes a long way toward mitigating the frustration.
    The problem with email and texting is that I essentially send my query to you off into the ether. I don’t know if you understand what I am asking or if you have return questions. I don’t know when you’ll have a chance to actually read it, let alone answer it… I don’t know if you even got it.

    On the phone, I get nuance in the voice. I can HEAR in your voice if you don’t get it, if you have questions or if you don’t agree. I prefer “face to face” over the phone, but the phone is better than texting or IMing. Email has its place (especially for the exchange of large amounts of information to multiple people so that it can be reviewed by the recipient(s).) but nothing (to date) can take the place of a quick phone conversation regardless of whether you like it or not.

    BTW: “Immediate responses come from years of experience and accumulated knowledge. By definition, our age group has neither of these things. ” I agree with your first statement, I disagree with the second. If you can’t provide a reasonable immediate response (which may be “I’ll have to look that up”) then you shouldn’t be in the job that requires you to make that response until you CAN.

  • frannyd22

    You know, some of us simply don’t like talk on the phone because it is hard to hear the person on the other end, whether it’s due to low tone of voice or the many possible distractions at home.

  • Primis

    Wow, this article pretty much sums up why everyone else thinks that the generation referenced is a bunch of self-centered, ill-informed jerks. Making a phone call for 2 min. is “selfish”, but asking someone to text back and forth for 20 min. because it’s your personal preference isn’t? Grow up, the world does not, and will not ever, revolve around you. Get over it.

  • Mervin Charles

    Insightful and helpful.

    Thinking of “one size fits one,” I add two variables. When a person is an auditory listener, and/or processes ideas verbally, this increases a preference for telephone over tweet, text, or email. (Of course, making a call by phone assumes having someone on the other end who’s willing to serve/partner in that way. Rather than assuming that the other person is okay with this, I hear in these comments the courtesy of asking. Good point.)

    Assuming that “others are the same as me” in their preferences (whether of the same age group or not) makes it more difficult to adapt to that person’s uniqueness and preferences. This invites me to define how I will prioritize my preferences and theirs.

    The original comments, and those added in response, were definitely helpful in gaining perspective. Thanks!

  • dusty rose

    My mother has a brilliant (and elegantly simple) solution to our text/talk differences. She treats my cellphone and hers as landlines because it’s not so much that GenX and GenY hate talking on phones, it’s that we hate talking on cell phones. When my mother calls me she does not expect me to answer unless I am literally, sitting in my back yard staring at the flowers. She knows I lead a full life and will listen to her voice mails and return her calls as soon as I have a few minutes. She also always leaves a voicemail, even if she is only calling to ‘say hi.’ I, in turn, make a habit of listening to her messages very quickly to find out if I can take a quick moment to answer her question or if I need to set aside some time to talk to her. That, I think, is really key. My mother shows me the respect of letting me schedule our talk time, and I show her that our phone time is important to me by setting aside ample quiet time to chat with her when I do return the call.

    I think that if the other Baby Boomers in my life treated my cell phone like a land line, they wouldn’t find me so hard to reach.

  • http://www.darichentertainment.com Dr82

    Interesting perspective… I would add however, that life happens in real time. There are no second acts. If you’re training yourself to put off communications until you’ve got the whole conversation mapped out, you’re diminishing your ability to communicate effectively in real time. No practice, no progress…

    Additionally, email and text messaging have a couple of disadvantages that you didn’t mention. With email words can quickly be misinterpreted or perceived outside of the context for which they were meant. It happens all the time.

    With text messaging, the spontaneous nature of the product gets us in the habit of just blurting things out. You think it, you text it, it’s out there. You have to train yourself to be very deliberative in your texting, or you’ll find that you’ve texted a comment to the wrong person, or texted something that you later wished you hadn’t.

    Finally, being annoyed at a friend who thinks enough of you to want to stay in touch and actually hear your voice, seems a bit ungrateful. Besides, unless you are particularly skilled in the art of written communications, it’s hard to accurately express emotions through words on a text screen. When you actually hear someone’s voice, you can pick up on unspoken nuances that serve to strengthen friendships and forge alliances. This, to me, is all part of the human experience.

  • Charles

    Many GenXers don’t like the freaking phone either. I certainly never did. I didn’t have the choice in our youth, and I never had much enthusiasm for the stupid device.

    I feel tremendous anxiety when forced to cold call someone–I feel it’s intrusive, and the partial lack of nonverbal cues seems far more distressing to me than the complete lack of them in IM/email/texting.

    I much prefer face-to-face contact over all forms of communication. Maybe ubiquitous voice calling will fix this issue.

  • http://www.higheredcareercoach.com Sean Cook

    Interesting take on the issue. I have some mixed reactions to your explanation, but have to confess they were a bit polluted by some of my own intergenerational baggage. How generations acknowledge their own place (and the place of others) in the communication process seems to be the important issue. Doesn’t it come down to how the generations view respect and how it is earned/exchanged? I don’t call people as much as I used to, but when I do, it is because I need quick clarification or because I need to give it to someone, or because a quick exchange over a limited time is more efficient than multiple texts. I hate texting because it requires more effort and rarely gives me the information I really need. Plus, my plan charges me per text and I hate the whole nickel and dime-ing of it all. I don’t like to e-mail from my phone, either. Small buttons and hand cramps are not fun.

  • Angelo

    I’m a little bit older, but I guess I still qualify as GenY. I wouldn’t say that I hate using the phone, but you do make a good point, especially about “demanding” someone’s immediate attention.

    Still, being able to provide an answer when put on the spot should not be a reason to not want to speak to someone on the phone. When put on the spot on the phone, there’s usually nothing wrong with telling someone that you don’t have an answer right away, but that you will get back to them.

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  • Mel

    So I’m a gen x’er and apparently much more touchy-feely than everyone here. I love the convenience of instant messaging and texting however; I miss, no I crave, human interaction be that face-to-face or by phone. When my office phone rings I welcome the opportunity to put aside what I’m working on for a minute (similar to getting up to walk around) and talk to someone. I find that when I go back to the first project I feel like I’ve had a break (most times) and am more ready to dig in. As for needing to research something or feeling ‘put on the spot’, I don’t hesitate to tell the caller that I will need to look into something further and call them back. This gives me the time to consider what my response will be or get the information I need.

    I think we’ve lost a lot of human-ness in our texting society. So my friends, you may think me rude or selfish but I will continue to call you; because I like to hear your voice. I can understand how you are feeling about what we are talking about so much better when I can hear your joy, frustration or other emotion rather than having to guess though text or chat.

  • Pat

    Have your people call my people and we’ll do lunch.

  • http://rutimizrachi.blogspot.com rutimizrachi

    I seem to live in a parallel universe where my GenY son wants me to call him (even though we’re serious time zones apart), and I prefer G-chatting and Facebooking. (OMG. I don’t even talk like a normal person anymore…) Forget about texting. I can’t even see the keys well enough to text a decent conversation.

    It’s not just the young who have busy lives, or who like to plan what they have to say. Also, I don’t agree with the prevailing wisdom that relationships are necessarily enhanced by verbal communication. I have improved relationships with old friends and relatives since we started writing to each other via the internet than when we used to speak on the phone. Why is this so strange? Think George Sand and Frédéric Chopin, or Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning. Lots of great friendships were carried on in the olden, olden days via mail.

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  • Keith

    Yes, it is a matter of selfishness – on the other side just as surely. “Gen Y” people as a whole have a terrible tendence to be selfish. Far too many of them are self-centered to an extent that their ancestors would consider downright immoral. The way this article starts is a glaring clue. The writer describes someone else’s attempt to reach him by telephone as an act of selfishness. Translation – “How dare you try to interrupt me with a phone call. I’m too important to spend 5 seconds to pick up a phone and find out who’s calling.” No, he wants someone to send him a text message that he can pick up at his leisure, whenever he deigns to get around to it. He wants all his communications to be entirely at his pleasure, and nobody else gets a say in when or how communications happens. If that isn’t selfishness, nothing is.

  • http://www.fireflyoftheearth.com Deinera

    This. SOOOOOO much this. I often have to explain myself when I refuse a phone call because it’s demanding my attention right now. I also have a hard time getting certain people to understand that if you want my immediate attention, you’re more likely to get it if you text me. Same number, just text. I always thought that I was strange for feeling this way. I’m so glad I’m not alone.

  • http://www.niceboots.com/wannafuck glennsche

    i have read this article and its comments more than once, and referred it to a lot of people in my professional and private life. i think its a solid piece and certainly helps bridge the gap of why “old people” dont “get” why “young people” dont wanna talk on the phone the way we did back in 80s (when i was a kid).

    i share your opinion on the phone, that it interrupts…

    my question is though, isnt chatting the same goddamn thing as far as intrusive is concerned? I’ll be sitting at my computer authoring an email or surfing or whatever and suddenly gmail does the flashing “message from so and so…” and i find the blinking so damn annoying i stop what i’m doing and there’s some chat from someone:

    “OH HEY! Quick question: Can you explain to me the evolution of Agile project management? I have an interview tomorrow with this *totally* hot company and i know you’ve been an agile coach before and so anyways i just [want to totally inject myself into your day and get you to drop what you're doing and answer me and give me some time and if you dont reply within in a minute i'll write "well! you're ignoring me! PFF!" and guilt trip your ass]”

    and the sender *knows* you’ll see it. He sees the green dot! So then you’re obliged to either answer and say “hey look i know i should’ve turned by dot to red but i’m busy and i’ll write you…”

    “HEY!!!!! LOL! OMG SO NICE TO HEAR FROM YOU OMG THANKS FOR WRITING BACK i got this cool gig as a scrum master for this start up in SoMa and the receptionist totally is hot and wants to gargle my balls and i … oh. Fine. TTYL.”

    so by the time this exchange is over i cant even rememeber what it was i was doing and now i’m swimming in chemicals ranging from annoyance to frustration to guilt to… arrrrg. :)

    Short and sweet: I think chat is JUST as annoying. You dont have an excuse why you shouldnt answer chatter immediately like you do with a phone (dude sorry didnt check my vm/lost my phone/left it at my desk/gfs house etc) or email (dude sorry was in a meeting/at an offsite/at lunch/in your mom)

    just my .02c.

  • adrian

    Agree. I usually ignore calls for that reason, go on Facebook and try to schedule a call for a later time that’s mutually convenient. As well, my friends know not to call me ‘just to talk’, as I have far better things to do. (I’m also an introvert so a conversation with me is like having a wall nod and agree with you until you’re talking. lol.)

  • Mic

    I just Googled “Why I hate phones” and found this site. You expressed my feelings perfectly – thanks!

    I’m an older gen-Y, but I think hating phones is not generational, but more cultural and individual. My whole family – including grandparents – text, email, or Skype. But then I have friends my own age who insist on calling. Also, of course I can talk on the phone in a business situation when needed. I have excellent customer service skills, thanks very much. But the phone is extremely inefficient for communicating information. I am a distance-ed instructor, and I will always choose Skype over a phone conversation because it allows me to see confused expressions, and also to share the screen if students can’t find something online.

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  • http://tiffanygholar.blogspot.com Tiffany

    First, I want to say that I love Paul’s comment about how “the phone apparently emits pheromones that compel people to call at exactly the worst time.” That is exactly how I feel! I’m a late Gen Xer (born in ’79) and I hate the interruption of phone calls. Part of the problem is that I field phone calls all day at work, which I don’t mind, but when I am on my own time, I prefer not to be interrupted. I’m an artist and find that phone calls break my concentration. I put my phone in airplane mode when I’m in my studio working. And on my business cards, I have only listed my e-mail address. If someone really wants to call me, and says that they do when I give them a card, I will write my number down on the back.

    No one complained about that until today, when another artist I just met sent me a message on Facebook asking me why I don’t have my number on my business card. He’s older than me, so maybe that explains it. ;)

  • Christine

    Great article.
    Despite potential beliefs to the otherwise, surveys have shown that Gen-Y do favor in-person communication just as much as older generations.

    I’ve heard some Millennials say they rather drive two hours out of their way for an in-person conversation rather than have a short conversation on the phone.

    I think for our generation there is also something unnerving with talking on the phone when we cannot see their expressions and they cannot see ours.

    Writing gives us time to study the context of what the other person is trying to say and think of what response will properly communicate what we want to say.
    With in-person communication, even if we are not the most clever and eloquent with our on-the-spot, spontaneous language we feel we can make up for it and still have a sense of control over the social situation with our body language and expressions to communicate our intentions. And even if there isn’t whole a lot of time to study their words – we can still get a greater understanding of what they’re attempting to convey by their facial expression and body language.

    I guess older generations just have more experience completely holistically and intutively judging conversations just on voice alone. To a Gen-Y indiviual it feels extremely awkwardly anonymous, like blinded-folded public speaking. (I can’t imagine too many public speakers enjoying being blinded folded unable to engage with the audience and tweak his/her performance to their reactions. I’d imagine that would triple any public speaking anxiety by 10 folds.)

    I believe in the same way, Millennial usually have a more developed holistic inutition with what emotions/thoughts/intentions are trying to be conveyed in communication writing styles. As I’ve heard older generations call the written word colder and more impersonal. But if you ask any Millennial, I think they would all voice feeling close to other person when they text them, email, instant message, etc.

    Rather its sight or sound I think the brain can make up for the missing element of communication so it stops feeling anonymous and starts to feel natural. But since it may take an equal amount of time for Millennials to feel comfortable on the phone as it does for older generations to feel comfortable fully switching to texting & emailing as the default, Skype probably is the best option in many cases and go for the (virtual) in-person experience all generations crave. It was great suggestion!
    Which I know Skype is on iPads now, landlines are becoming less used manufactured and used, so I am guessing video calling will be the main use for cellphones and for all phone calling in very near the future.

    • Ryan

      You may have hit the nail on the head without realizing it. Talking on the phone is not something everyone is immediately comfortable with. It’s a lot like approaching a person you’re attracted to: you might be nervous, the conversation might be a bit stilted at first, but it gets easier the more you do it and your life will certainly be better for it.

      With the rise of texting you can now get the instant communication without having to go outside your comfort zone. It’s not quite fair to peg this as some inherent issue with millennials. They’re just the first generation that didn’t *have* to develop those skills so they largely haven’t.

      You certainly lose visual cues to a conversation over the phone but you at least have audio cues. With electronic communication you don’t even have that much. There’s no frame of reference beyond the ability to compose and interpret the written word. And study after study has shown we routinely get that very wrong. It’s the entire reason emoticons popped into existence.

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