Call, email, or face to face? Which is better?

I've always been a huge fan of email for most business related communication. It's fast, and asynchronous, meaning I can work on something else while I wait for an answer. I don't have to wait on hold, and I don't have to knock other people out of the zone. For the most part, I only use email.

The biggest problem with email, is that it is pretty much impossible to convey tone. If you're like me, I'm usually very direct, and try to get my point across with as little communication as possible. I'm a very positive guy, and RARELY send a negative email. Yet my emails tend to be randomly interpreted by some people.

Yell at Laptop

I've noticed two common behaviors in the way people communicate. There are people like me, direct and to the point, and there are people that have to say their point many times. You might not believe me about the people that have to repeat their point three times. Of course 3 times isn't the hard and fast rule, but seems to be the average. They'll say something like this:

"I would really appreciate it if you could make the top button blue because I think it will match the site theme better. You see, the site colors are very important, and I want the button to fit in with our theme. I've seen a lot of other sites that have button colors that don't seem to fit in, and we don't want to make that mistake!"

Wow! I heard you the first time! Here is how I would have said it:

"I think we should make the top button blue because I think it will look better. Let me know if you would like me to stop by and discuss."

Ok, I like it. Straight to the point with no extra information. If you want more information, just ask.

I've realized that if the direct person talks to another direct person, everything is great. If the repeater talks to another repeater, things also seem to go great. My conclusion is that people talk like they expect to be talked to. If a direct person talks to a repeater, the repeater wonders why you're only saying your point once, and may even get offended. If the repeater talks to the direct person, they become insulted because they're acting like they're stupid.

My suggestion, if you're dealing with the type of person not in your group, pick up and give them a call. I know you don't want to, but there seems to be less of a clash when the communication is bidirectional. Better yet, if they're at the same location, walk over and talk with them face to face. It's a lot of work, but worth it if you can avoid a conflict.

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See a mistake? Edit this post! UPS Update

As you know, supports FedEx, DHL, and USPS. We've been trying to get back UPS support for well over a year.

Thank you all for the incredible support for trying to get UPS to let us use their tracking data the way YOU want. The response to our petition has been incredible, getting over 400 signatures in a few short months.


I've been working pleading with UPS to see this as an incredible opportunity for everyone. The only reason that we don't have UPS support is because of the terms of service that their lawyers have written. They're understandably very leery of making an exception to that rule.

I'm trying to make them understand that we're receiving over 15,000 unique visitors every month. The masses have spoken. You want to track packages YOUR way.

I know it's just a matter of talking to the right person in UPS. If any of you know who that person is, or have a contact of UPS that may be of use, please let me know. Email me at: jason at, or leave a comment.

I'll post updates as they arrive.

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How does your boss know you're doing a great job?

In my last post, I talked about how your boss might have no choice but to judge your performance simply by the number of hours you work. Now I'm going to talk about some ways to change that.

Good Job!

If you're boss is gauging your performance based on the amount of time your butt is in your chair, you have a BIG problem. He obviously doesn't have a good understanding of what it is that you do. Obviously the short term solution is to figure out how to keep your butt in the chair longer for appearances. For example, come in earlier and catch up on the latest tech news. You may have been doing this at home, but why not get credit for it? The extra time you put in is also great for "playing" with the tools you use. It's a good time to find out the most efficient ways to use them, so that you don't have to get out of the zone when you're working on something important.

Of course the long term solution is to change your bosses perception. Here are a few ways to do this:

  • Let your boss share your pain. When you are running into hard problems, make sure he is aware of it. It might seem a little cruel, but if you don't do it, he might not understand why you spent a week on something and have nothing to show for it. If you're excited about something, tell your boss about it. He might just get excited about it too. In small talk situations with your boss, that's a good time to give an update, but keep it short. In software development, there are changes that the average person would think are very easy. Your boss needs to be aware of when situations like that arise. Email weekly status reports to the tem. If you're busy, this can be a good place to put some of the above suggestions instead of talking face to face. Your boss will appreciate your enthusiasm, especially if this is something that is not normally expected of you. It also serves as a good project history for him, yourself, and the rest of the team.

Also understand that your boss may need to report your progress to his boss. Be mindful of that, and try to boil down some of the information so that it can simply be repeated instead of being interpreted. Remember that anyone in the chain of command up to the President are interested in what you're working on. The higher up you go, the more summarized the information needs to be. If you have opportunities to speak with them, you always want to be seen as passionate and motivated. It could very well affect a decision that they'll have to make one day.

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Jason Young I'm Jason Young, software engineer. This blog contains my opinions, of which my employer - Microsoft - may not share.

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