Should You Turn Off Your Telephone?

Wouldn’t you love to pick up the phone and call anyone you’d like? Who do you want to talk to? Is it Halle Berry, or maybe Brad Pitt, or Steve Jobs, or Neville Isdell or the Dalai Lama?

You know there are people out there you’d love to talk to; admit it. It’d be great to pick up the phone, dial anyone you want and chat that person up.

Do you? No. Can you? No. Is that okay? Of course.

It’s perfectly acceptable that there are some people that you simply will never talk to in your life. There is nothing wrong with not being able to communicate with certain people. This is not a questionable action. This is not a situation that should create skepticism, concern or bewilderment.

Think about it: Do you question the integrity of Bill Gates because you can’t talk to him? No. Do you view Charles Denson as a suspicious character because he won’t call you? No, of course not. These executives and their distance from interaction are normal.

And yet, we expect everyone else – the regular, average joe people or the common businessman – to be at our beck and call and to respond to every form of communication that we choose to be the right one.

It’s bloody ridiculous. “What? No phone call? That’s it, you suspicious bastard. You’ve effectively set all my radars on red alert and now I’m going to question your integrity and seriousness as a professional because you won’t take 15 minutes out of your day to talk to me on the phone.”

That’s right, I won’t. I, James Chartrand, no longer do phone. Sorry. It’s out. Gone. Finished, finito and done. Yes, I’m being selfish and stubborn and extremist. And I really don’t feel bad about that at all.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s back up a bit in time, shall we?

Six months ago, my phone lines were open to customers, clients, peers and colleagues (not to mention friends and family). I fully and firmly believed that if I wanted to be a top professional, I had to be reachable in every way possible.

I took calls from Australia at 2am so that I could accommodate clients. I snuck around my house whispering on the phone at 6am to not wake my family. I received phone calls out of the blue during supper and put my family on hold to talk. I set aside my work to accept calls from people who just wanted to make sure I was a flesh-and-blood person. (Trust me, I am.).

I lost many hours on the phone – both from my personal life and from my business life. I dealt with the distractions. I accepted that I lost wages. I humored every single person who wanted a piece of James.

It couldn’t go on. I was spending more time trying to fit five calls into a day than I was working on my clients’ projects. So I started setting limits.

No more calls after 7pm. (“What? What kind of service is this? The virtual world is international, you know…”)
No more calls before 9am. (“What? You don’t open your office before that? Are you lazy and sleeping in?”)
No more calls on weekends. (“What? What kind of web worker are you? Do you want the job or not?”)
Limiting the duration of calls. (“What? Only a half hour? Well, frankly, I can’t fit everything I want to say in that space of time. I’m insulted at your restrictions.”)
Limiting calls to specific hours. (“Only between 1pm and 4pm? What the hell? I can’t be available. You’re just going to have to change your hours.”)

One day, my Muse put her mojo on in a big way. She was strutting her stuff and she wanted me bad. I wanted her too. I grabbed my keyboard, started typing… and the calls started coming in.

Some were scheduled. Some weren’t. Some were urgent ones that needed to be done. Some were just chatty ones that were a waste of time.

After six hours on the phone and looking back over a whole day lost forever, I set the phone down and thought, “What the hell am I doing? When did my time and my telephone availability become a reflection of my integrity, my professionalism, and my ability as a businessperson?”

That was the last day I took a call.

My telephone is now completely restricted to family and close friends. I communicate via email and instant messenger because this is my life, my business and my preference – and there isn’t one thing wrong with that.

I am my own boss and employer. I have the right to choose. I have close friends of mine who are burning out from offering consultation and telephone calls. They are desperately scrambling to change their business model to get away from the phone.

I refuse to let myself get to that point. No way in hell.

To those who claim that my business is no longer accessible and that I am not providing good customer service, I refute your claims. Our business does provide phone service. I have a lovely account associate who is more than willing to spend her time on the phone answering questions or sharing information – and she does a fantastic job.

But a private, direct call straight to Jamie himself? No. I’m sorry. I’m going to put myself on a bit of a pedestal and point to the many people in your very town, your city and the world over that you cannot call.

No one, not one single person, needs to speak directly with me on the telephone. I am not a member of the CIA hording secrets that only I know that can only be whispered over encrypted phone lines in the dark of the night.

I am here. I am available. Contact me. Email me. Message me. There is nothing that I cannot communicate via text. I’m a bloody fast typist with about 20 different email addresses and six different instant messaging logins. You can reach me.

You don’t even have to be a great writer. You could write in bullet points, if you’d like. I’m a smart boy, and I can get a lot of information from just a handful of words. I could care less about your spelling, or whether you use paragraphing or not. Seriously.

Does this attitude cost me jobs? Not often, no. Most people understand (though some think it a little strange and a touch extremist. I’m stubborn that way.).

Sometimes, though, my unwillingness to talk on the phone does cost me an opportunity. I’m sorry it has to be that way, but I refuse to step down and I stand my ground.

These people who would hinge working together on my willingness to talk on the phone are turning their nose up at my skills and abilities for extremely poor reasons that don’t hold water. They question my character, my integrity and my personality based on a phone call.

There’s something odd about that, if you ask me.

So those people are not the type that I prefer to work with. Those people who insist on calls or the deal is off are the ones that started this whole crazy “no-call” cycle.

They lack respect for my needs, my desires and me – and in the same moment, they openly accept that there are some people in life they’ll never talk to on the phone.

Well, folks, one of them is me.

Post by James Chartrand

James Chartrand is an expert copywriter and the owner of Men with Pens and Damn Fine Words, the game-changing writing course for business owners. She loves the color blue, her kids, Nike sneakers and ice skating.