Got an email a few days ago from someone I didn’t know. Included a themed stationary (generally regarded as a no-no in email land — you’re not doing that, are you? 🙂 Also had 2MB of attachments that were supposed to “help me” and the entire email was not signed (I had a return address and a name, but no indication of position, purpose). I was one of about 50 people receiving this email.It was obvious it had something to do with a position I hold in a professional organization. Having never heard of this person, I took this as unsolicited spam. Since the organization deals with communication, I took the opportunity to educate about communication.And I did it poorly. I tried to explain good email etiquette:
- attachments (especially big ones) are bad — link to a web site instead (consider that some folks are still on dialup!)
- contain the purpose front and center
- identify yourself
- or else…
I thought I was gentle. I could have been much more harsh. Really.It was received poorly, and I got an email back that was filled with offense and scattered more than a little “take that!” my way. I was taken aback — I assumed this person didn’t know better and I was trying to help. But I should have remembered some tips from the Carnegie book in my current file, “How to Win Friends and Influence People“. While I didn’t ask for large spam, he didn’t ask for a critique. He responded defensively, and in retrospect, probably expectedly.I decided to use some new skills from the book, dug out the biggest apology I could muster, and hit some common ground. On that common ground, we have established a rather lengthy thread whereby both of us are coming out with some real business needs met (I’m going to help him meet an organizational goal that apparently seemed unreachable before — hence the email; I’ll get exposure and experience and, likely, business).It’s not hard to imagine why I did what I did; nor is it hard to see why he was frustrated and reacted the way he did. Neither of us could have known the frustrations of the other, and on first try, neither of us cared. Two strikes. Glad we avoided a third.
Try to understand your audience, and seek to find common ground before you try to win someone over to a point of view.