Voice Mail & Your Inner Circle

by Michelle on May 20, 2010

Remember when there was no voice mail?  No answering machines? 

Me neither.  I mean, since I’m only 29 (2010-1969=29 is my story and I’m sticking to it), how could I?


Voice mail is great.  It’s a very powerful tool.  When used properly.

This May Seem Like a Venting Post, But There Will Be An Eventual Point To It – I Promise

So by properly I mean: not the way a certain person in my life uses it.

“Hi, it’s me.  I want to talk to you. Call me when you can.”

You want to talk to me?  No kidding. I figured that out when caller ID showed that I missed your call.  So now I’ve spent two minutes of cell phone usage checking my voice mail to learn that you want to talk to me.  And I’ve stopped what I was doing (shifting gears from a more interesting activity, because  - face it – everything is more interesting than checking voice mail)  to check my voice mail.

When you receive a voice mail message like that one, you cannot effectively prioritize it.  If your day is full of to-dos & other callbacks, you don’t know where to put this one.  And in my world, messages like that fall to the bottom of the list.

Which can be dangerous.

Because although the message above usually means, “Hi.  Just checking in. How’s everything going?”

It can sometimes actually mean, “The half-price airline ticket offer goes away in 12 minutes – I need your credit card number.”

And then you lose out on something really cool because that other person leaves crappy voice mail messages. No matter how many times you’ve mentioned that a little more information in the next message would be helpful.

So the ability to leave a detailed – yet non-rambling – voice mail message is highly valued in my book.

What kind of voice mail messages do I leave?  Well, basically, I try not to leave them at all.

And Finally, She Gets To Her Point

My inner circle are all cell-only folks, whose phones provide caller ID and missed call alerts.  I recently noticed a pattern among the folks I communicate with the most.  If we need to pass on info, we do it via text.  We confirm receipt of the info via text as well, so there’s no presumption that the message was received. 

If it takes more than the 160 characters a text allows, it warrants a phone call.  But not necessarily a voice mail message.   Here’s the drill:

I let it ring until voice mail kicks in, and then I hang up.  My friend/husband/sister/project/partner/etc will see that I attempted to call, and they’ll call me back.

The interesting thing?  We never mapped out this plan.  I don’t tell a new-potential-inner-circle-person, “Here’s how I like to communicate”.  It just happens.  They automatically get it.

And the folks who don’t?  They aren’t a right fit for my inner circle anyway.

No, that’s not my only criteria in evaluating who gets in.  That’d be a pretty harsh filter, ya think?

But I recently realized that if I have to explain what I’ve outlined above to someone (instead of it being their natural approach, too), they don’t get me.  And they most likely won’t get me.

They won’t get that although I appreciate professionalism, respect, structure & process, I’m a pretty informal person who doesn’t get caught up in the wearing the “right” clothes or driving the “right” car for one’s profession. They won’t get that I offer them the first beer when they visit, but it’s up to them to take the second right out of the fridge when they’re ready for it.  They won’t get that I’d rather have a conversation at home about personal responsibility and how to best teach financial prowess to our kids, than visit the hottest restaurant in Scottsdale tonight.

So making a filter out of my annoyance regarding ineffective voice mail messages works for me.

For example.

This morning when I attempted a call to someone who is showing signs of being a part of my inner circle, voice mail kicked in.  I hung up, smiling to myself and thinking, this is a test.

Ten minutes later, she called me back.  And dove into the matter at hand.  Not a word about, “I saw that you called” or “Why didn’t you leave voice mail?”

And I welcomed her to my inner circle.  With open arms.

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