You and a friend have plans to go to the movies and you need to cancel a few hours beforehand because your daughter is sick. So, you do what anyone else would do: shoot your friend a text, apologize for canceling, and ask to reschedule. In today’s world of digital communication, texting is just what you do. But what if, instead of the movies, you have an interview and have to cancel it a few hours beforehand? Different rules apply when it comes to business and texting, and navigating those rules can sometimes be a challenge. Below, we go over some basic rules to follow when choosing between a phone call or text to communicate in the business world.

A phone call is better when:

  • you have to make a last-minute cancellation. You can follow up with a text if you aren’t able to reach the person by phone, but start by calling the person so you can explain why you can’t meet and reschedule a new appointment.
  • you know the back-and-forth will be extensive. You know those never-ending texts that go back and forth for what seems like hours. And you also know that hashing the discussion out by phone would have taken 1/10th of the time.
  • you are driving. Texting and driving is irresponsible. Period.
  • you are giving negative feedback or news. Just like breaking up by text is in bad taste, so too, is telling an employee that they are not getting a bonus or telling your boss that you are quitting your job. Bad news deserves a phone call.
  • the subject is personal and private. What if you send the information to the wrong person? Or what if that person’s messages pop up on their phone screen and others see it?
  • your message could be misconstrued. Text messages can easily be misinterpreted just because the wrong punctuation or word was used. Also, you may think your message is light and jovial, and the person reading it may consider it as condescending. Phone calls are better for discussions when you want to make sure the message you’re sending can’t be misconstrued.

Pro tip: Always get a phone number for the person you’re interviewing or meeting with so you can call them if you need to reschedule. 

A text message is appropriate when:

  • you are running a few minutes behind to a lunch meeting. A quick message to say, “Running 10 minutes late!” is more polite than subjecting your date to the stares he or she will get when she answers the phone in a restaurant just to find out you’re held up in traffic. Canceling? Yes, phone call. Running late? Text.
  • the other party has established that texting is an appropriate means of communication. Some people believe that texting is inappropriate for business, so it’s always a good idea to ask someone the best way to communicate with them or follow their lead if they tend to communicate by email or phone.
  • you are sending contact information or quick facts. Texting the name of a restaurant to your client or reminding your boss that you’ll be late because you’re at a dentist appointment is totally acceptable. Giving a dissertation about why you deserve a raise is not.
  • it’s during business hours. Would you want to get a business-related text when you’re celebrating your friend’s engagement or getting your child ready for bed? No. Be aware of when you are sending texts so you aren’t interrupting someone in their free time.

Pro tips:

  • Check your spelling and avoid using acronyms before hitting “send.” Acronyms mean different things to different people, especially across generations.
  • If it’s your first time texting that person, include your name. They may not have your contact information saved in their phones.

 

Texting can be a great way to save time and quickly communicate a message. However, it’s no excuse for lack of professionalism, especially when using it to communicate for work. Take a moment to think before you hit that “send” button.