Thursday, July 1, 2010

Email offenders


By Michelle LaBrosse

In a previous column I had some suggestions how to fall back in love with your email. If you followed my advice, you've banished pointless listservs, you've set up an FAQ to handle the most common email queries, and you've practiced good email hygiene and cleaned your inbox every day.

You now use filters to sort your email. Everything should be fine between you and your inbox...but somehow, things still aren't working out.

It's an old story. There's someone else.

Lots of them, in fact. Even if you are diligent and disciplined about best practices, email can still be a time and patience drain because of the habits of people who send you email. It's not you, it's them. Here's a rundown -- and it's only a partial list -- of some of the worst offenders and some of their lines.

"Didn't you get my email?"

Maybe I did. And maybe the sender put some generic, completely useless, or totally suspicious word or phrase in the subject line that made me hit the "Delete" key like the Marines hit the beach at Normandy. It doesn't matter if the email comes from an old friend, a new acquaintance or blood relatives -- any email with the following subject lines goes right in the trash.

  • "Invitation"
  • "Look at this"
  • "Hi!"
  • "Remember me?"
  • "Congratulations"

This goes triple if I don't recognize the email address. I enjoy meeting new people when I give speeches throughout the country. Thing is, I meet dozens of new people at each event, shake dozens of hands, and collect scads of business cards. I need a clue how we met if I don't recognize the email address.

Being too forward

I can understand the temptation to just hit "forward" and send a whole thread to an interested or relevant recipient. I wish these people would resist. It's too much info. I will read it to the very last line, even if it's a long thread, because I trust their judgment that it's relevant. My trust takes a hit when I have to scroll through a lot of back and forth about setting up a meeting time or "thanks" type emails. If I need back-story, I will ask and we can set up a time to discuss it.

"Didn't you get my email? I sent it yesterday"

Only the sender can judge the time sensitivity of the message. I expect that if something is urgent and time sensitive, I will get a phone call and then a follow up email with the details if necessary. If it's that urgent and someone is going to call me to follow up, why not just call me?

Sometimes, though, the sender has a legitimate gripe -- it can take a couple of days for me to get through all my emails and respond appropriately. I've made a promise to myself to send a quick note that simply acknowledges that I have seen the email and hope to respond by such and such a day.