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Funny, the things that can spark a debate.

There are plenty of major life-and-death issues on which opinions differ dramatically. And then there’s … online scheduling software.

I set off a firestorm the other day with my thoughts about Calendly and company.

Namely, it rubs me the wrong way when I hope to open a conversation with someone and they reply, “Here’s a link to my calendar.”

It always makes me think of those ‘60s ad guys we watched on Mad Men. You want my attention? Have your girl call my girl.

I’m my own “girl,” of course—I do the meeting and the scheduling at Catherine Johns Ltd. And I like to do it from a position of equality. Your time is valuable—and so is mine. “Go to my online calendar” sends an entirely different message.

It struck me that I might be too sensitive. If so … there are many other professionals with the same sensitivity. I was surprised that so many people agreed with me: “Here’s a link to my calendar” is off-putting.

The response to my post was voluminous. And vehement. And a few things stood out.

A gender divide showed up clearly.

Typical responses from men:

    • “I think the efficiency is what is really nice about having calendar software.”
    • “Five years ago would probably be in poor taste but now has been so normalized I wouldn’t characterize it as impolite.”

<li”>And my personal favorite: “Sign of the times, kid.”

What did women have to say?

  • “While scheduling software does help move conversations forward, it still feels impersonal, not very inviting.”
  • “Asking me to “link to your calendar” makes me feel like one of the masses instead of someone special.”
  • “If you just point someone to your calendar and say, “Choose a time to speak with me” – well – that makes someone feel like they’re inferior to you and a little like their subordinate.”
  • “There is an air of  ‘I am too busy/important to schedule with you.’ It breaks that alliance you’re hoping to build immediately.”

Yes, there were some women who touted the efficiency of online calendars. One said she “couldn’t disagree with me more.” She’s “grateful for the efficiency and time zone conversion that my Calendly link – or theirs – gives.”

And a few men expressed doubts. One guy called the software a “pet peeve,” and added, “I understand having the tool on your website for people who want to schedule without calling in, but to force people to use it because you don’t want to open your calendar is rude.”

I’d guess we also saw some differences in communication style.

Professionals who are more outcome-oriented and more time-conscious are all in for the scheduling software. It makes the process of putting a meeting on the calendar simple, it’s cut-and-dried, and by taking out the human element it avoids a lot of back-and-forth.

That makes online calendars perfect for someone who wants to just get down to business. “It does feel more transactional (like booking business.) But the approach can save a massive amount of time in scheduling, so I’m not offended.”

She’s right about the transactional element, isn’t she? If I already know I want to hire you or buy from you, I’m happy to book time online. If I’m hoping to open a relationship with you, I might feel differently.

Those who are more relationship-focused prefer a conversation or at least an email exchange about setting time to get together. “I use the conversation about dates available – to build a relationship and get a better idea of what we’re going to discuss during our scheduled time. I actually have a conversation or an email exchange and we agree on a date, time and agenda.”

And some go seriously retro: “I like to pick up that tool thingy we all have … a phone!”

Maybe we can split the difference.

I heard from a few people who take a blended approach: “I use a calendar link. I also state, ‘Here is a link to my calendar if it’s convenient for you. If you prefer, please send me times that work for you.’”

That makes sense, doesn’t it? When I get so busy, I have to use a scheduling software, I’m going to flip that around. I’m thinking something like this.  “Let’s talk live, shall we? Send me a couple of times next week that work for you … or if it seems easier, you can put a conversation on my calendar here.”

My guess is that most people would opt for the ease of the online calendar. And they’d do it without the sense that they’ve been assigned the admin work because they’re just not as important as I am.

What difference does it make anyway?

A couple people suggested there are much bigger issues to worry about. Undeniably true. At the same time, communication is critical, and this kind of nuance fascinates me. Especially now, because we’re doing so much of our business online.

We see each other on screens that flatten our images and distort our features.

We hear each other on phone lines that compress the sounds of our voices, eliminating some of the richness that gives each of us our own sound.

And instead of walking down the hall together, sharing a cup of coffee, sitting next to each other in a meeting room, we gather online where those aspects of camaraderie are lost.

I want us to be mindful of all the ways we communicate … and of the messages we send.

You may have thoughts about scheduling software and convenience vs. connection. (A lot of people do!)

Share them in the comments below.