Last week I was speaking at an event in Missouri, and during lunch I got into an interesting conversation with a guy named Tom about dating. His son had recently gone on his first real date. When he got home, Tom asked his son if he had walked to the front door to pick up his date. The answer? “Nope – I just pulled into the driveway and texted her that I was there.” Incredulous, Tom asked if his son had at least walked her to the door after the date. “No. We pulled up and she got out, then she texted me when she was in her bedroom.”
I know the world is changing. I know people don’t talk on the phone anymore, and it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that teenagers send digital kisses to each other to save themselves the trouble of having to do the actual work of making out. And I know the way you do business is changing, too. But no matter how technologically advanced we become, there are at least four old school business practices that will always, always¸ ALWAYS help you stand out in a crowd.
Picking Up the Phone – If you text me, I can answer you when I feel like it and while I’m doing 6 other things at once. If you email me, I can ignore you for basically forever (if you don’t believe me, look at the date of the oldest email in your inbox right now). But if you call me and I’m foolish enough to answer, you will have the closest thing to my undivided attention as it’s possible for me to have these days. Plus, as crazy as this might sound, sometimes all of us actually like the notion of real human contact. If you can make me think that you’re a real person instead of just a series of sentences on a computer somewhere, you’ll automatically differentiate yourself from all the other noise I’m trying to ignore.
Sending a Thank You Note in the Mail – I know it hurts your hand to write more than two sentences longhand. I also know your handwriting is barely legible even to you. And I know that you probably forgot where you can buy stamps. (Hint: they have them at the grocery store!!!) But even a typed thank-you note that arrives in the mail is 17 times better than a thank-you email – which most people don’t bother with either, by the way. The last person I hired got the job for several reasons, but one of those reasons was because he sent us thank-you notes in the mail. Am I easily bought? Absolutely. And so are a lot of other people.
Paying Attention While Someone Else is Talking – That’s my super polite way of saying TURN OFF YOUR PHONE DURING YOUR MEETINGS!!!! Don’t turn it to vibrate, because that buzzing in your pocket will make you start to salivate the second it happens. “Who’s calling, it must be important, someone loves me I have to answer it now!!!!” And trust me, your bosses know who’s paying attention and who’s playing Flappy Bird or Candy Crush or whatever game is currently irritating you right now. If you want them to take you seriously, you might need to give them some indication that the stuff they say isn’t boring the crap out of you. Side note: you can deter your coworkers from texting during meetings by showing them this video.
Meeting Face-to-Face – Here’s one where technology is currently failing us, since exactly every time I’ve seen someone on a conference call they’ve put it to mute and are either scrolling through Facebook or catching up on emails until they feel the need to unmute themselves, say “Totally agree,” and then hit mute and go back to not paying attention. I know that conference calls and virtual meetings are occasionally necessary, but they will never be more effective than face-to-face interaction.
Basically, if you can force yourself to put 5% more effort in than everyone around you, you’ll win respect or customers or a promotion or whatever it is you’re looking for. That will always be true. Just like it will always be true that, all other things being equal, a girl will tend to go for the guy who opens her car door for her than the one who texts her from the driveway to hurry up and come outside.
Seriously, sometimes I really do weep for the future.
For more rants about how the old days were better, check out my Us Vs Them presentation.