Don’t be an E-BAG

Are You a “Chatty Cathy” Via Email?

Do you remember back when businesses exchanged typewritten letters to one another and if some one wrote back to you within a weeks time that was considered very responsive? How about the days when people would actually pick up the phone or got together for a meeting to discuss important topics that would require a back and forth conversational dialog.  Where did that go?  Oh yeah…technology.

Many times I have said that technology is a blessing and a curse.  I have opined how technology has contributed to the loss of the human connection and manners.  One day I may even write about how I believe technology is actually creating more stress for people…because you are always tethered by it and are expected to be “on” all of the time.  It’s exhausting just thinking about it.  In that same vein comes this wonderful technology that we call “Email” which is becoming incredibly abused.  Rather than just using it to send legitimate “need to know” information, and keeping the communications on point, it seems that many are now using email to hold a conversation in lieu of picking up a phone or scheduling a meeting that would allow for regular dialog.  For comedy, and not with any ill intent, I like to refer to these types of people as E-Bags.

POINT OF REFERENCE:  Let’s be clear about the angle I am coming from.  As a lawyer and entrepreneur I maintain multiple e-mail accounts for business and receive hundreds of e-mails a day.  I want to ensure I am receiving all of the legitimate information that I need in the shortest amount of time possible.  This is why E-Bags are a personal pet peeve of mine.

Five reasons why using email for conversations, generally speaking, can be a bad idea:

  1. Time is money!  It takes a long time to write out paragraphs of information and if you go back and edit at all, you are looking at 30-45 minutes for something that could have been said in five minutes on the phone.  If you are business billing your customer/client for that time, maybe you don’t care…but if you are the customer/client, you could be paying someone to read emails about your whatever, off topic, conversation.  Seriously.  Think about that.
  2. Everyone’s time is valuable!  Chatty Cathy conversations, especially when there are more than two participants in an email string, do nothing by waste time and irritate people when they have to read through your messages to see if there is anything important that pertains to them directly.  When you start pissing people off, naturally, they aren’t going to pay much attention to your communications in the future.
  3. People get too many emails to keep up!  If you chat away via email you are running the strong possibility that your communications will get overlooked.  If you are a known chatter, even when you provide very important information or a request in your communication, it can be overlooked because the recipient may assume that you are just chatting again and won’t read your email or will, at best, merely skim it.  The chances of your important information getting lost increases dramatically.
  4. Conversation emails are like dumping trash on top of small presents in a bag.  When you use email as “chat” you are basically littering in your own inbox.  You are dumping “trash” on top of the important things which can make them harder to find.  This is especially true if you manage an email account that has a high volume of incoming email to begin with.
  5. The written word, especially when written in a hurry, can be perceived in many ways that was unintended.  When I present to students and adults I explain how one single sentence, with only seven words, can be interpreted seven different ways depending on the emphasis that the reader places on any particular word.  This can lead to a break down in communication and lead to more relationship and communication problems that could have been avoided through a phone call or a meeting.  Never underestimate the power of being able to hear voice tone, word inflection and/or pick up on body language.  You can’t get those things from the written word.

Three instances when engaging in conversation via email can be a good idea:

  1. When you are making introductions.  If you are making an introduction between your self and someone else, or maybe you are connecting two people who have never met before, conversational email communication is probably going to be expected.  You are trying to open a free flow of friendly dialog so that they can get to know one another.
  2. When your entire relationship is based upon email.  If you have never met a person, or perhaps have never even communicated with a person over the phone, then, in that case, being conversational is appropriate.  It can connect you and provide opportunity for dialog when other communication mediums are not available or appropriate (think an online forum for example).
  3. When your customer/client expects it and is willing to pay for your time.  Some customers/clients are just long winded, they have lost the human connection so they don’t like actual phone or in person conversations, and they EXPECT to communicate via email primarily.  In this case, if that is what your customer/client wants, then by all means…go for it.  Just be sure to let your customer/client know, up front, that they will be billed for such communications.  Again, time is money and your time is a valuable commodity that you cannot ever get back.

If this resonates with you (because maybe you are a conversational emailer) or maybe because you share the same frustration with conversational e-mailers, be sure to chime in with your #EBAG experience.  I’m only writing from what I see personally but am always open to other perspectives and learning.

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