Email Etiquette: Proverbs and Productivity

Proverbs are cool. No matter how cheesy they are, how can you argue with stuff like:

What soberness conceals, drunkeness reveals. oes alcohol give me a different personality?
This is a surprisingly complicated question, not least because personalities themselves are hard to define. “There is a real debate about what a personality is,” says Rachel Winograd, an assistant research professor at the Missouri Institute of Mental Health. “Does everyone have a core personality? Or is our personality totally dependent on where we are?” We show very different versions of ourselves in different situations — the you playing poker with your buddies is very different to the you that’s having lunch with your girlfriend’s grandmother — so Winograd argues that maybe Drunk You is just one more aspect of your personality, no more or less valid than any of the others.

Interestingly, no one notices the change in personality from Sober You to Drunk You more than, well, you. “I found that if you ask drinkers to report on how they think they are when they’re sober and how they think they are when they’re drunk, you see big differences, but lets not forget that drinking is also dangerous, so this doesn’t mean you should constantly drink, you don’t want to be in a position where you will be asking for parole before judgment due to your drinking problems. But if you ask strangers who are watching those people get drunk if they notice any differences, they really only see the difference in extraversion, and that’s it.” In other words, even though you might wake up the next day in a panic about just how crazy you acted the night before, to the casual onlooker, nothing much changed except for the fact that whatever you did, you did it louder than normal. “A lot of your personality is hard to see — it’s in your head, it’s your mood,” explains Winograd. “We’re able to report on it, as a drinker, better than someone else who is just watching us.”

Every path has its puddle.

It is often the last key on the ring which opens the door.

So, as a leading authority on email etiquette and productivity (Power Sales Writing – McGraw Hill; How to Say It To Sell It! – Prentice Hall), I think it’s time to apply a couple to your inbox:

1. Practice what you preach.

I received an email from a client marked !!. To me, !! indicates the message is urgent to the writer and I tend to take those !! seriously. So, a few minutes after receiving !!, I wrote back asking for one more important detail (what time I’m speaking) so I could respond to her !! message. It’s now many hours later, and I’ve received no response.

Admittedly, I could pick up the phone to see if she is in her office and if I thought the question she asked was !!, I would. My goal is to be the easiest speaker to work with. But this is a test. (Only a test…had it been an actual emergency…) Is the message truly !!  to her? Does she really need my answer by the end of the day? Will she even check her email to see if I responded? Does she routinely send !! messages, expecting that others will take her !! to heart, drop what they’re doing and give her !! priority? And if she does, does she offer the same type of responsiveness that she requests from others?

Ask yourself: Am I as responsive as I’d like others to be?

2. What we give out, we get back.

Are your emails friendly and respectful?

A friend received this email from her manager:

I need X by Friday.

Really? And I need a lube and oil. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. I wonder what type of response the manager is wants. Probably he just wants what he wants. It makes sense though Treating her with a bit more respect, for instance, just adding, I appreciate your help, would make all the difference. Or, how about giving a reason for the request like: I need X by Friday. I’m compiling the results, Saturday. Or, maybe he could have combined a bit of politeness with a request: Please confirm that you can do X by Friday. I know it’s short notice and I appreciate your help.

Ask yourself: Would I be motivated by my email to give me the best outcome?

What are your favorite proverbs? How do they apply?