Best Practices for the Next 5 Minutes: Technology and Communication

Everybody knows that the way we talk to each other is changing all the time. We have choices to make about mediums, rhythms, and meanings. While there may be some universal rules or intra-office rules, many of the rules are not only unspoken, but unwritten.

Our offices here at Rebel Pilgrim are currently under renovations that will take a month or so. Many of the conversations we might have across a room or a meeting have been moved online or onto our phones. For our sake and yours, we thought it might be worth writing some rules. These seem fair and applicable for the foreseeable future of the next five minutes.

Phone calls:  While this is still the most effective way to have a conversation and to eliminate the confusion caused by tonal shifts in text messages, we have all agreed to forego this possibility.

-If the intended receiver of your phone call is under 35, send them an advanced notice 3-5 days ahead of time to allow them to build the social and emotional fortitude to speak into a phone.

-Leaving a message may help you cross something off of your To-Do list, but no one will ever listen to a voicemail again.

-In the wild jungle of “conference calls,” Silence and Interruption are your only weapons. Choose carefully.

Emails:  While this is still the medium through which we accomplish the most work, an argument can also be made that it is the medium through which we put off the most work.

The best emails also moonlight as Infotainment. Use subject lines and send-offs to endear yourself to your co-workers even if, or especially if, you are sending important information.

-Before hitting that “Reply All” button, remind yourself of this Spanish proverb: “Don’t speak unless you can improve the silence.”

-Always, ALWAYS, forget the attachment.

Text messages: Texting can be a great way to connect quickly and clearly. Can be. It is also a wild frontier fraught with the possibility of misunderstanding and ambiguity.

-In the space between a sent text and a response, there are a million possibilities alive in the imagination of the sender. They are hardly ever, “Oh this person must just be engaged in something meaningful and can’t respond to me right now.” They are far more likely to be something like, “This person despises me and everything I stand for. Or “This person has jumped aboard the freight car of a runaway train and will never address my concern.”

-When in doubt, add the emoji with its tongue hanging out.

-Texting should only be used for issues pertaining to the next 24 hours. Any event beyond that time limit should be addressed via a charming email or a voicemail no one will ever hear.

Social Media: Social media still feels like both a boon and a burden to professional life. It makes or breaks us professionally and there are very serious things to say about. But here are some less serious things:

-Keep a running count of your “Likes” ratio with each of your co-workers. “Like” as many of their posts as they like of yours. Never be too generous or stingy as this ratio is a reflection of Power Held and Power Granted. Obvs.

-If you have an urgent message that has been repeatedly ignored in email and text form, simply tag them in an Instagram post. Everyone checks those.

-Play along with your company’s attempts to create online engagement through their social media accounts. It will go a very long way with your Content Person and they will write favorably about you in their blog posts. Signed: Rebel Pilgrim’s Content Person.

Slack, GChat, other assorted Messaging Apps: There are a number of newer designs for instant message threads and interoffice talk. Many of these are designed to help you avoid inboxes that have been overrun with targeted marketing campaigns from every store you have ever entered. Here are a few things to consider when you think you might want to explore the new horizons:

–Calculate how much energy it will take to teach this to anyone in your workspace who grew up with a phone hanging on their wall and whether this number is greater than the minutes it will save you from traditional communication mediums. Make sure the numbers are on your side.

–Bear in mind that many of these apps include automatic “Read receipts” and prayerfully consider whether you are ready for that kind of accountability.

When in doubt, send a funny gif to your co-workers on twitter to make sure they check their email about the voicemail you left replying to the Slack thread.

If only fictional Ryan from The Office had really unleashed Wuphf. All of this would be moot.