There’s Only One Good Way to Email Your Boss

Excerpt from this article:

My boss gets 500 emails a day. I try not to email her but sometimes I have to, and the one way to get her to reply quickly is simple: I start every email to her with a question. And then if needed, I explain the context to my question in one or two more sentences in the fewest possible words.

Starting with a question is important because if your boss scrolls through emails on her phone, like most of us do, her screen allows her to see only the first few words of an email before she chooses to reply, delete, or ignore it. Words like “Do you think…” or “Could we…” or “Will you confirm…” are quick shorthand phrases that tell her THIS IS AN EASY EMAIL. All she has to do is reply yes or no. And she’ll email you back faster.

Another great touch you can add while emailing your boss, co-workers, and especially people who don’t work at your company is changing every “can” and “will” to “could you please” and “would you.” At first you will worry you sound ridiculously formal: “Could you please tell me if…?” and “Would you consider…?” But then people will start being SO NICE TO YOU and MOVE MOUNTAINS to help you only because you SOUND like a very nice refined person with poise — even if you’re falling apart at your desk, even if they’ve never met you.

 

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Avoiding Miscommunication in a Digital World

Excerpt from this article (good podcast episode too):

The issue though really is you have to understand the basic problem. Any kind of form of writing, unless you’re Shakespeare, involves basically less emotional information getting through than a face-to-face conversation. And so you might feel safer in that situation. You might feel like you can control it better.

But what happens when we get face-to-face is that willy-nilly, we exchange a huge amount of information about intent. And that’s what humans really care about. We care about what’s the other person intending toward me? Is that person friend or foe? Is that person going to have me for dinner or am I safe with that person? Is this person more powerful than me or less powerful? So those are the kinds of questions that we’re asking.

When we don’t get that information – and here’s the important point – we tend to make it up. The brain hates to be deprived of information like that because its survival depends on it, and it’s always predicting a few seconds ahead: is there danger here? Is there danger here?

And so what the brain does is when it’s deprived of those channels of information, the brain makes up information. And here’s the kicker: it makes up negative information because that’s more likely to keep you alive if you assume the worst. And so that’s why so much of written communication gets misunderstood, and typically misunderstood not on the positive side, but on the negative side. People usually are offended or their feelings are hurt. You rarely get people calling up and saying, “Boy, I misinterpreted your email. I thought it was wonderful!”

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Men and women hold placards bearing an exclamation mark

Excerpt from this article:

How many exclamation points does it take to exclaim something? One, a human of sound mind and a decent grasp of punctuation might say. The exclamation point denotes exclamation. That is its point. One should suffice.

But, on the internet, it often doesn’t. Not anymore. Digital communication is undergoing exclamation-point inflation. When single exclamation points adorn every sentence in a business email, it takes two to convey true enthusiasm. Or three. Or four. Or more.

Stop Saying Technology is Causing Social Isolation

Excerpt from this article:

If you have used the internet in the last years (and I suspect you have), you have probably seen a picture on your Facebook feed or on your Tumblr dashboard or nearly everywhere pointing out, with a sense of superiority, how people are slaves of technology nowadays, always using their electronic devices in public.

My main premise is that I don’t think smartphones are isolating us, destroying our social lives or ruining interactions. I see smartphones as instruments for communication. Instruments that enable interaction on ways that just weren’t possible before, connecting us with people all around the world, via Twitter, instant messaging or other services. Some may say that if you want to interact with people, you should interact with the ones around you, and that is probably true on certain occasions. But, on other occasions, I’m just not able to comprehend why should we be forced to interact with those physically close to us instead of with the people that we really want to interact with.

How It Became Normal to Ignore Texts and Emails

Excerpt from this article:

While you may know, rationally, that there are plenty of good reasons for someone not to respond to a text or an email—they’re busy, they haven’t seen the message yet, they’re thinking about what they want to say—it doesn’t always feel that way in a society where everyone seems to be on their smartphone all the time. A Pew survey found that 90 percent of cellphone owners “frequently” carry their phone with them, and 76 percent say they turn their phone off “rarely” or “never.” In one small 2015 study, young adults checked their phones an average of 85 times a day. Combine that with the increasing social acceptability of using your smartphone when you’re with other people, and it’s reasonable to expect that it probably doesn’t take that long for a recipient to see any given message.

As Deborah Tannen, a linguist at Georgetown University, wrote in The Atlantic, the signals that are sent by how people communicate online—the “metamessages” that accompany the literal messages—can easily be misinterpreted…

Features intended to add clarity—like read receipts or the little bubble with the ellipses in iMessage that tells you when someone is typing (which is apparently called the “typing awareness indicator”)—often just cause more anxiety, by offering definitive evidence for when someone is ignoring you or started to reply only to put it off longer.

The End of Typing: The Next Billion Mobile Users Will Rely on Video and Voice

Voice

Excerpt from this article (subscription required):

The internet’s global expansion is entering a new phase, and it looks decidedly unlike the last one. Instead of typing searches and emails, a wave of newcomers – “the next billion,” the tech industry called them – is avoiding text, using voice activation and communicating with images. They are a swath of the world’s less-educated online for the first time thanks to low-end smartphones, cheap data plans…