Please don’t be that person! Let’s see if you recognize that person. An email is going out to a group of people for efficiency sake because they all need to answer the same question. Recently a group of consultants I work with were asked if they needed new business cards. Simple enough. (And, amazingly, this was a group of people who communicate for a living.) At least four of the ten people on the list hit “reply all” when responding. Why? I don’t need to fill my email in-box with messages saying Janice and Jason in New York need more business cards!
Now, is this the end of the world? Certainly not. But it should give us all pause to ask, “Am I that person?” Remember that the ‘reply all’ feature should be used sparingly and always with this question: “Does everyone need to know my answer, or is it just the author of the original email who needs to hear from me?” While that may seem obvious to some, I am continually amazed at the number of people who don’t always understand the rules of the road in email communication.
So, since we’re on the topic, how about this one? Have you ever been part of endless back-and-forth which could be avoided by a simple phone call? I’ve had so many C-level bosses tell me how often they have to tell their people to please pick up the phone! Or get up from their desk and walk over to their colleague’s space. I certainly understand we can be in meetings or not in a place where a call is possible, but then include that fact in the email so the other person understands. And others have told me they feel millennials are more likely to avoid direct conversation. Are you a millennial? Or is that your experience? Let me know. I’m trying to avoid blanket judgements here.
Finally, how about the overly long email with no acknowledgement of the human being on either end of the conversation? Remember, email is just an electronic version of a chat. Would you walk up to someone and just launch into a talk without a “Hello, how are you,” or similar greeting? When co-workers do that on a regular basis they hear at their annual review they are viewed as “harsh” or “abrupt” by their workmates. Remind yourself with each email that another human is at the other end of this conversation and any personal connection or friendly greeting helps warm up what is otherwise a pretty cold communication tool. I remind nearly every audience I am lucky enough to be in front of about the research which shows most electronic communication is viewed more negatively than it is intended. Why? Email doesn’t feature the warmth of your smile, or at least the smile which can come through in your voice.
With the Holiday season upon us I must pass along my best wishes to you and yours and thank you for being part of this community. Send me a note at the address below and watch for my new book, coming in January. If you order now, see below, you can receive the book in December.
Follow along with Cary on Twitter @CaryPfeffer
Cary Pfeffer is the founder of ClearComm Consulting, www.clear-comm.net, a Phoenix, AZ communications consulting firm that helps people tell their story. He works with clients to make the most of their media and live audience communication. Email him at: email@example.com.