Somehow I have a feeling that this might just be my first post on this subject and not the last! Inspired by a TechRepublic blogger on Four Email Types That Can Drive You Crazy, I thought I’d share some of my own observations on emailing mannerisms that get under my skin.
1. The Lengthy Emailer
I used to be one of these people, so apologies if you ever got one of my rambles in a professional context (I hope I grew out of it quickly enough). These are people who like to tell you everything about everything, even if it isn’t relevant to the topic at hand. In fact, you can get so tired reading through their wall-of-text that the actual point gets missed!
Generally, my opinion is if it’s taking me half an hour to write an email that’s pages and pages long, the recipient isn’t going to bother reading it, so the solution is simple – don’t send it. Talk to them instead.
If a discussion isn’t possible, then I skim read, using a list to capture the main points (that I could see) and run that past Lengthy to make sure I’ve captured the gist of his argument. Don’t let him go into another ramble!
2. The Disgruntled Emailer
For whatever reason, negative emotions are stronger in email than positive ones. This may vary from person to person, depending on how thick skinned you are. Fullstops, ellipses (‘…’), italics or LOTS OF CAPS can all put emphasis on the negative, and the recipient on the back foot.
The Disgruntled Emailer is unhappy about something. Generally, because this is the real world, it’s something out of their control, whether they like it or not. And they want you to know about it.
I have two methods of dealing with The Disgruntled Emailer.
Firstly, I’ll go talk to them. Generally, the conversation will start off with “Hey Disgruntled, I got your email.. I wasn’t sure what you meant, can you explain it to me?”. Just work through the pessimism. They want someone to rant to, or at least someone who can understand their problem and escalate it or divert it. If you can do something about it, even better.
Second option is to send an email back (this is usually better if I have a fair understanding of Disgruntled’s complaint) and rephrase their email in such a way that I don’t find it aggressive. This is to try to find common ground with the complainant such that they can say “yes, that’s what I meant”, and we can all go to lunch.
Sometimes, though, The Disgruntled Emailer is just that – disgruntled. She won’t answer any of your questions straight up, and she will carry on about something that has already been discussed, even if you try to talk to her in person or come to middle ground. The best answer in this case? Delete the email. Any response will just end up in a childish back and forth that won’t get you anywhere.
3. The Hasty Emailer
This is the trap I fall into the most! This is the person who forgets the attachment, every time. Or the person who asks you to call them and doesn’t leave their phone number. The person who avoids a proper greeting or signoff even if it’s only the first few times they’ve met you. Or doesn’t bother with a relevant subject line. (“Hi” is not relevant at work!)
The impression you get from The Hasty Emailer is either self-importance (“What? Oh, you’ll manage, I have much better things to do”) or poor organisation (“Ahh! I have so much going on that I – what? you need what? Help help help!”). Neither of which is a very good impression in business.
The solution, or at least a workaround, if you fall into this category is to not click send before you’ve reread your email. If you’re one of those people who clicks send before they think, don’t put in a recipient at all – then, when you click send it will complain at you. And give a few seconds to provide a thoughtful subject. I have to work on this one, I think – it’s hard to know how long is ‘too long’ for a subject.
A Radicati report in 2011 on Corporate Email suggested that on average, corporate users sent 41 email messages a day, and received approximately 100. That figure is only going to grow, even with the growth of social media networks within organisations. It’s just too easy to send an email, especially if you are little Ms. Disgruntled.
On the other hand, reading through those hundred emails when they are like Mr Lengthy can be very time consuming, and even frustrating. Figuring out what Miss Hasty is trying to tell you can be equally confusing!
I noticed the quickest solution to a lot of these little email dilemmas is to face to face with the culprit and get them to talk to you in person (or at least on the phone!). Agreeing to come to a middle ground is much easier when you’re in person, and leaves much less room for confusion when it’s documented even in a simple list.
If you can’t talk to them? Then beat them at their own game. Send back a clear, polite email using what I like to call the hamburger theory: two buttered up bread rolls on either side, with the meat (“This is what I think you mean, but please be clearer”) in the middle. Buttering them up first is not a sign of weakness, rather, it just opens the conversation in a way that means “I’m here to talk to you, not to argue.”
I’ve only listed three of my favourite (cough) email personalities here – what are some you’ve seen?