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7 Ways to eliminating “Email Insanity”

Merlin Mann’s wonderful post, Email Insanity & the 0.001 Challenge, makes clear what I’ve been trying to say for years. His is the most perfect description of why email-i-ness happens. Mann says:

“Right this minute, you can create an email of unlimited length covering topics of unlimited scope and then send it to unlimited numbers of people — whom you may or may not even know — all at absolutely no cost to you. There is also no prohibition or boundary of any kind on how you phrase that email. There’s no formal penalty or even feedback for when you’re using email inappropriately (e.g. the dirty look that you’d get if you said something this weird to someone’s face). Plus, of course, YOU get to decide (at least in your own head) exactly how quickly all those people should be getting back to you…

Email insanity, then, is thinking that you can get away with being rude. It’s thinking that just because there are no prohibitions, it must be okay to say what you want, when you want, how you want – oh, and expect the recipient to take immediate action on your words, too.

Even the best of us sometimes get lulled by the distance of the recipient and the comfort of the moment. I received an email from a new client who was displeased at the airfare for my upcoming flight. “Never,” she writes, “never have I had to pay such high airfare for a speaker. This is ridiculous.” It may not have been a flame, but it was an arrow – to my heart. I phoned her an hour later. Her first words were, “I’m sorry.” She had been juggling many things…. and she realized I could do nothing to control the cost of the ticket…

How to easily eliminate email insanity? As Mann implies, by thinking of email the same way we think to “wear pants to the grocery store.”

Here are SpeakerSue’s tips:

  1. Take the high road. Write like you’d like to be written to. Offer your recipient the benefit of the doubt that you’d appreciate under similar circumstances. There’s not much to gain by making any other choice anyway.
  2. Pick up the phone. Just hearing another’s voice humanizes the communication. In an email vacuum, it’s too easy to say what you want instead of what you should.
  3. Invoke the 60 minute rule. When you’re pounding the keyboard or thumbing that PDA to death in response to an email, it’s a good time to stop writing. Wait 60 minutes before responding.
  4. Say what you mean. Email etiquette happens, and insanity stops, when you don’t have to respond to their response to your message to explain yourself. Save yourself time by saying what you mean, in a way that is meaningful to them, the first time.
  5. Don’t CC the world.
  6. Don’t BCC ever – unless you’re protecting confidentiality of names or your intent is not to be sneaky. If you think you’re being sly, you’ll get caught.
  7. Stop the thank you game. The thank you game happens when I thank you and then you write back you’re welcome, and then I think of something clever to write back to you to let you know that I’m thankful you said you’re welcome and so it goes. A thank you doesn’t require a response.

“Email Insanity” is easy to conquer when you stay focused on what is the right thing to do – for them.

What do you do to email responsibly?

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