02 May Irritation by Email
In a recent email writing class, someone mentioned the problem of partially-answered emails, and wondered if he needs to send separate emails for each question he wants to ask.
Here is the email he sent to Aspen:
“The meeting has been scheduled for 10, and we’ll review the marketing plan. Also, did you like the blue swatch we sent over for the folders?”
Here is Aspen’s response:
“Thanks, I’ll be here. Which marketing plan are you talking about- mine or Coco’s?”
Here is his second email to Aspen:
“We’ll look at everything. And, are you okay with the blue for the folders?”
One more try:
“Again: are you in favor or using the blue for the folders?!”
When he later had a conversation with Aspen, she breezily said that of course she was fine with whatever color he wanted to use for the folders, giving him the impression that she didn’t consider the subject important enough to spend time talking about.
Apparently she thought that not answering the question would signal her indifference, which could be considered approval.
Other members of the class said that sometimes they didn’t answer a question because they didn’t have the answer, or they planned to deal with it later, or they just forgot about it when they responded to the first part of the message.
What to do? Well, as the group agreed, since we can’t control the behavior of others, we have to manage the situation in the way that suits us best. Perhaps number the items in the email so it’s clear that there are multiple issues going on. Or state at the beginning of the message that you have 3 things to address. Or- failing these aids to attention, perhaps we have to send one email per thought, thus adding to everyone’s time and annoyance.
Note to readers: Read the whole message. If you don’t know the answer, say so. Don’t assume.