To quote George Bernard Shaw: “The biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
With respect to our power to communicate, we live in a remarkable period of time. I normally respond to 50-100 unique emails every day. I have been doing this for many years and yet I still marvel over it. Before email, this would simply not have been possible.
What is most disconcerting about many of the email messages I receive is that the person communicating with me believes they are sending me what I should consider to be a complete and actionable piece of correspondence. This is rarely the case.
I know I beat this dead horse several times a week, but a FULL outgoing signature in many cases would go a long way to solving at least some of the mystery of who you are and how you are expecting me to respond. Sure, I could just hit reply and send you back a message (something rude I suppose), but I prefer to know who you are and how I can best help you. Not everyone has a secret decoder ring as I do. (My secret decoder ring is The FENG membership directory, which I always have open on my second monitor.)
I got an email earlier this week that informed me that Kelly thought I could help them with their networking. Nice. Kelly who? Dare I mention they had no outgoing signature? None. Yes, I’m afraid it got worse. They made no mention of their background, which turned out to be marketing. (I only know about CFOs and Controllers.) They also didn’t attach a copy of their resume. Instead, I had to ask for a copy.
Just how much effort does someone who doesn’t know you expect you to expend on their behalf? Is a guessing game really in order? (You didn’t say Mother May I!)
All I know about you is in front of me in your email. If you want me to call you, would it be possible for you to provide me with your phone number? If you are providing me with a work phone number and an extension is required, could you provide that as well? (As much as I enjoy running the high hurdles of a firm’s telephone directory, it could save me a lot of time. However, they really are cute. Some of them ask you to enter the person’s first name, some the last name, and almost none of them bother to tell you the telephone extension so you don’t have to do it again.)
If you would like me to read your email, would it be possible for you to REREAD it at least once before you hit send? Perhaps if you did, there wouldn’t be any typos, and perhaps your sentences would make more sense. I’m pretty good at reading between the lines, but I’m not all that good at guessing.
Let me also add that the communications you send paint a picture of who you are. Don’t make your first impression your last.
What am I to think when the “From” box indicates your name is George smith? Are you really that technologically uninformed that you don’t know where to fix this label? I assume almost everyone who writes to me has a college education. It would be nice if you let it shine through.
There is NOTHING casual about communication. And, every aspect of every message you send communicates something good or bad about you. If you attach your resume, what is the file name? Is it JonesFrank-resume.doc or is it jonesfrank-resume.doc? Which do you think would give a better impression?
Have you ever written to yourself? (I know you talk to yourself, but we won’t get into that just now.) Try it some time. Send yourself your email cover note and see if the multiple fonts (sizes AND types) don’t make you look more than a little silly.
Writing to strangers is a whole lot different than writing to friends. Although I apply the same standards to both, I can understand why an instant message may have some typos. On the other hand, it is inexcusable in any form of business communication.
So there you have it, my rant for the day. Be precise in your communications. You might even find that more folks will write back with something intelligent.