Tim's images

Want to Achieve Your Goal? Avoid E-Mail!

— CCPT™ points the way —

My career is deeply intertwined with Japan, and a stay in Tokyo late last year reminded me how powerfully face-to-face communication helps us achieve our goals. I’d been communicating with partners and colleagues by Skype and e-mail for weeks before my visit, but things really happened after we sat down and talked in person. The experience was so powerful that I decided to formalize another Clark’s Rule that’s been simmering in the background. So without further delay, here—for the first time on any page—is Clark’s Communication Potency Theorum™ (CCPT):

The power of communications improve exponentially with proximity, either physical or psychological.

CCPT postulates that the weakest form of communication is e-mail: the easiest, least-invested way to get in touch. On a scale of one to 100, CCPT assigns it a value of one.beautiful_businesswoman1.jpgTalking by phone is ten times (one order of magnitude) more powerful than e-mail. I don’t even put my e-mail address on my day job Web site; long experience has shown that e-mail-only inquiries are invariably time-wasters in my business (people unable to spend a nickel or muster the gumption to call on the telephone are poor prospective customers or partners).

Conversely, people who call first rather than e-mail immediately stand out. I see this all the time at school: Outstanding students prefer telephone or in-person conversations, while the less capable prefer to “converse” by e-mail. So phone calls score ten on a scale of one to 100. You might be physically far away on the phone, but you’re very much more present.Meeting in person, though, is ten times again as powerful as a telephone call. This is the gold standard for potent, meaningful communication—it rates 100 on the CCPT scale. Below is a highly scientific graphical representation of Clark’s Communication Potency Continuum™: ccpc_graph.jpg

Here’s an example of CCPT in action: While working on my first book, I arranged a telephone interview with a Tokyo-based real estate professional.

The conversation was, frankly, disappointing: where I expected explosive revelations he offered only mild commentary. I almost decided against asking for an in-person meeting, but did, and on my next Tokyo trip, I was glad—because once we’d met face-to-face, he offered some of the hardest-hitting insights of any interviewee. His initial reticence on the phone wasn’t cultural (he’s from the U.S.). It was simply that meeting in person created an unbeatable depth of rapport and trust.

My latest meetings drove the point home. What a difference! Think about e-mail “conversations.” Typing out questions or responses, transmitting them, then waiting for answers is dreadfully inefficient. A seven-minute telephone discussion can easily replace hours—even days—of piecemeal, back and forth, typed question-and-answer “conversations.” But it’s more than a matter of efficiency. The human voice’s rich contextual cues—tone, pitch, pauses, silence—communicate far more boy_speaking_with_megaphone.jpgthan mere words. And in person, facial expressions, body language, bearing, and posture add more layers of rich context. Forget the message itself; talking by telephone or in person will take you far beyond the “message”—maybe into an entirely new relationship.

Sure, you can’t beat e-mail for transmitting a PDF file or spreadsheet. And for ongoing working relationships, especially for people in different time zones, e-mail can be extremely effective. But for accomplishing powerful, satisfying communications, especially in the initial stages of a relationship, give me telephone or in-person interactions every time. Why do so many people these days insist on typing rather than talking? I can’t help but think they do so not only to prevent confrontation, but to avoid encounter.

Time and again I’ve seen people give up on something because “I e-mailed him and he never got back to me.” Giving up after a single attempt, using the least potent form of communication, is no way to go about achieving a goal—or building social capital. Every personal and professional breakthrough I’ve ever made originated in a face-to-face encounter. I find it hard to believe things are otherwise for most people.

Am I a hopelessly outdated, living-in-the-past Luddite? Maybe so. Like all of Clark’s Rules, CCPT is empirically unproven and based solely on the experiences of Clark. So be forewarned: Clark’s Rules may be false! E-mail may indeed be the new gold standard of communication …clark.jpg But I don’t think so. So if you’re with me, get hip to CCPT and pick up the phone, or better yet, set a coffee date. You’ll create a better connection—and go farther toward achieving your goals.

P.S. Stay tuned for our Monday 1/21 post, when Mark will ponder career issues in Life Without Principle (or Interest).

Related posts:

Happiness is Turning Off the Computer

14 Comments to Want to Achieve Your Goal? Avoid E-Mail!

On Jan 17, 2008, My Inner French girl commented:

Bonjour! Well, my answer to your question would be: I hate the telephone. 😉

Seriously, I’m a bit of an introvert (one of the perks of being a writer is that one is almost expected to be!) and don’t like using the telephone. I always feel as if I’m bothering the person I’m calling, or I’m missing nuances that I would otherwise pick up in person. I would much rather have coffee with someone than talk over the phone with them.

Having said that, I also use email much more often than phone because I can control the amount of interaction I have with a person. With email, I can skim through the text and get what I want, then either follow up, file or delete. I don’t get caught up in “small talk” (which I generally don’t like), nor do I forget/miss something during an extended phone conversation. As a writer, I much prefer the written word anyway.

Lastly, in most of my previous office jobs, my employers usually preferred email, if only because it left a paper trail. Very important in big cases and projects where due diligence and reporting were critical. I’ve since gotten used to the habit.

Of course, if an email exchange looks like it might drag on, I’ll go ahead and pick up the phone and try to get everything done right then. That’s rare, however.


On Jan 17, 2008, by Tim commented:

Ah, Marjorie, ce que vous dit, c’est vrai, c’est vrai (??- it’s been a long time)

With the exception of truly over-scheduled alpha types, most of the rest of the world still welcomes phone calls, in Clark’s view (which very well may be wrong).

So don’t be shy about gracing others with your voice, though like you, I agree that coffee in person trumps cellular in transit every time :-)


On Jan 18, 2008, Karen commented:

I’m with Marjorie on phone calls. In my world the only people who call are recruiters, salesmen, and bosses when they are dumping urgent work on you. It’s all people thinking about what they want and not whether you want to hear it right then.

Everyone else emails, often to arrange that coffee.

On Jan 18, 2008, by Tim commented:

Yesterday a guy I’d never heard from before e-mailed me to request an appointment. It took *five* separate e-mail interactions over more than two hours to finally set a mutually convenient time.

Ridiculous! This could have been accomplished in 30 seconds by phone (since he was the initiator, and I wanted to meet him, I went along with the e-mail “conversation”).

This kind of interaction assumes that we’re both sitting by our computers, watching our inboxes, just waiting for that next message to interrupt… if so, why not just pick up the phone? Not a productive way to work…

This morning I e-mailed someone—at the request of her colleague—and was delighted when she called a few minutes later. We quickly settled our business, and more important, established some real rapport. Now, if and when I meet her, I bet we’ll both feel a degree closer.

No doubt my perspective is colored by my self-employed status and computer overdosing during Web 1.0. I’m lucky not to have bosses or salespeople calling. But I sure feel lucky to have people like you getting in touch—even if you’re not calling!

On Jan 24, 2008, My Inner French Girl commented:

Bonjour, Tim! I don’t think we’ve met, but it’s always lovely to meet fellow bloggers with similar thoughts and philosophies!

Most of my previous day jobs involved lots of phone work, so perhaps I’m just very burned out by the whole experience. 😉 I work from home mostly now (working on a novel — isn’t that what everyone is doing? — and my blog), and I like the peace and quiet. I do enjoy meeting friends and family for coffee, but even those are scheduled via email. I’ve found that I’m much more productive (even when taking into consideration the amount of time I could theoretically save if I used the phone to make appointments) when I’m not constantly being interrupted by the phone. Conversations take much longer than planned (even if one is just scheduling that meeting), and then it takes me a few minutes to get back in the groove of what I was doing prior to the call.

I try and schedule all my phone calls at one time during the day, and I don’t answer the phone after 9pm.

Or maybe I’m just becoming a hermit in my old age? :-)


p.s. I really enjoy your blog.

On Jan 24, 2008, by Tim commented:

Thanks, Marjorie, I’m really enjoying your enjoyment of my blog :-)

And I fully understand your aversion to the phone. I’m skilled at avoiding small talk, so ballooning conversations are rarely a problem (unless the subject drifts toward Japan or international business model portability, in which case all bets are off :)

9PM?? Good grief, I stop at six.

Best of luck on the novel (my “novel” is a doctorate thesis). And take refuge in Soul Shelter as often as you please.

Yours as ever,


On Jan 25, 2008, My Inner French Girl commented:

Dear Tim,

I think that’s my problem: I don’t do well with avoiding small talk, and unfortunately, as a woman it’s almost expected that one will engage in it. When I do try to avoid it, people think I’m rude or “aggressive,” which annoys me no freakin’ end. So sometimes, as much as I try to get to the “meat” of the matter, I find myself going along with the social expectation of chatting inanely about the weather or how my weekend went , then the next thing you know, poof! It’s been an hour later.

Ah, maybe that’s why women feel so frazzled. It’s the whole “inability to say no” syndrome. Must work on that.

Oh, I get so long-winded when I start talking about my time in Japan. I think it was worse when I finally came back after two years — I couldn’t stop talking about it. Fortunately, I’m married to someone who went through the same experience I did (albeit a few years later), so we have someone with whom we could talk endlessly about the subject and they would understand.

I think I’ll try moving it up to 7 pm. Maybe that’s why I haven’t been getting much sleep.

Thanks for the kind wishes! I think you have it so much harder than I. At least when I’m done, an agent or editor will read it in the privacy of their office, and I get critiqued over the phone or by email. With you, you’ll be defending your whole education in front of an entire panel of people, who will shoot questions at you for which you will not be prepared in advance. To an introvert like me, that would be akin to facing a firing squad.


On Jan 25, 2008, by Tim commented:

Gee, the way we’re going we might have to get on the phone and waste hours talking soon :)

Thanks for teaching me with your comments. Being a woman truly is different. BTW, your writing is gorgeous.

Next week starts a two-part Japan-related post, so stay tuned!



On Jun 9, 2008, Soul Shelter | Mindshare Marketing commented:

[…] even has a rule for this, called “Clark’s Communication Potency Theorem:” The power of communication improves exponentially with proximity, either physical or […]

On Oct 1, 2008, Chris - Manager's Sandbox commented:


Brilliant article! I work for a large, global organization that relies heavily on email, and I certainly understand why – we’re working across an entire globe of time zones and work schedules.

But I continue to be amazed at how many times people who sit right down the hall from me insist on communicating almost exclusively by email.

Consider me a fellow Luddite.

– Chris

On Oct 1, 2008, by Tim commented:

Thanks, Chris. Glad to know there’s another analog guy out there! Who even works for a giant corporation :)


On Mar 25, 2010, Making Phone Calls Lowers My Productivity « Feed The Spark commented:

[…] Making phone calls lowers my productivity. (sorry guys) […]

On Apr 29, 2010, Soul Shelter | Mindshare Strategy commented:

[…] even has a rule for this, called “Clark’s Communication Potency Theorem:” The power of communication improves exponentially with proximity, either physical or […]

On Jun 15, 2011, Making Phone Calls Lowers My Productivity commented:

[…] Making phone calls lowers my productivity. (sorry guys) […]

Leave a Reply

nourish your soul

RSS graphic

Enjoy FREE inspiration with the Soul Shelter RSS feed. Or have each new article delivered FREE to your inbox.

The Prosperous Peasant

Our book

The Prosperous Peasant
(Read a chapter for free)