Is it that hard to pick up the phone?

Ross Paull |

I recently found out the hard way why I need to trade my Nokia for one of those new fangled iPhones. My 3 o’clock was a no show so I called to see where they were. Apparently, they sent me an email at 2.50pm to cancel. So…why didn’t they call?

It seems people no longer telephone to cancel meetings – they email – in my case, shortly before the actual meeting. For me, the penny had finally dropped that the old Nokia mobile has become a powerful symbol of falling behind the times and was a relic from the 1990’s. The evidence is more than anecdotal that:

  • People are becoming increasingly acclimatised to texting and emailing using web-based systems as their primary mode of communication. Ask Nokia!
  • Indeed, the use of social media means that we no longer need to physically meet or speak to maintain ‘friendships’ or ‘professional associations’. Ask Facebook and LinkedIn!

I prefer to use the telephone to connect but it seems the broader population is more comfortable in texting and emailing. Maybe it’s easier to hide behind written text and avoid those difficult conversations that make us feel uncomfortable. Avoiding the negative real time face-to-face encounters seems to be preferable, if at all possible. There is no longer the need to pick up the verbal and non-verbal cues that flow from telephoning and meeting in person. And another interesting observation is how people tend to change their personas when they switch communication modes. I’ve experienced many of the so-called ‘Paper Tigers’ throughout my career. People who are charming and pleasant face-to-face can turn decidedly unreasonable when they fire off an email. They forget the fact that they leaving a ‘behavioural’ paper trail and often need to be reminded of this.

How good would it be if you had a problem with someone and you could sort it out online? Imagine if you could avoid the ticking meter of the lawyer’s time-based billing or the hassle of attending a hearing. The appetite for online engagement is growing and new software applications are required to keep pace with this trend. Conflict is a pervasive part of our lives so why not borrow some of functionality from social media forums to create a ‘clearinghouse’ for conflict?

There is no great leap of faith involved in harnessing online systems to resolve conflict situations including complaints and disputes. No need to physically meet or speak with each other….look no further than car sales or dating sites, for example. They all require information exchanges. People trade pics, chat via email and text etc to jointly plan, negotiate and resolve an outcome. What these social media sites effectively do is provide a suite of functions to facilitate people engaging because they like help to structure their interactions. We all need to ‘to and fro’ in communicating to get what we want. People don’t just log on and kick things off on an ad hoc basis…they need to be GUIDED.

GUIDED RESOLUTION was formed to design and build systems for dealing with many conflict scenarios. Our approach is premised on the need for users in these situations to:

  • structure their online engagement;
  • spend time contemplating their ‘interests’; and to
  • think differently and more strategically about the issues underpinning their conflict.

This is the first of a series of blog posts about issues relevant to managing conflict is a positive way by using web-based systems.