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Don’t Overreact Based on Assumptions

When you ask for advise, be courteous when you receive a response you may not like.

I post a lot about my experiences with other onliners to share how email can potentially affect how you are perceived. Running this site and many others, I am probably more exposed than most with the number of inquiries and “personalities” I run into daily.

On all my websites, including this one, I have a form that visitors can use to ask me a question related to the site’s topic. For this site, questions about Business Email Etiquette.

Being it is my website, and my time to answer your questions, common business courtesy would naturally lend to being respectful when I respond. Even if the answer is not one that you like.

Anyone who knows me will tell you; I won’t sugarcoat the truth or change the reality of my answers based on if someone will like my response or not. So, with that in mind, today, I’ll share a recent situation as a teachable moment.

Ask Business Email Questions and I’ll Answer — Honestly

BusinessEmailEtiquette.com is a business site, so I expect a certain level of professionalism and decorum when asked for my input. It is surprising how many do not do so when emailing me and asking for my advice. These folks also tend to be the very same who do not, let’s say, appreciate my response.

As is always the case, I respond point by point professionally and courteously with no thought about whether my response is expected or desired. I’m asked for my advice, and I provide it. And based on my decades of experience.

When I do not respond as anticipated, certain “business folks” get defensive and accusatory. The thing is, they did make the first move by asking my advice, didn’t they? Not sure how you leap to make assumptions about me that have nothing to do with the topic at hand because you may not appreciate my response.

Don’t Shoot the Messenger

For example, one emailer asked about setting up a specific type of marketing email on their server. This business owner also mentioned they would use email addresses found on websites for their marketing email activities.

First off, their inquiry wasn’t about Business Email Etiquette — the topic of this site. It was about server functionality concerning handling emails. Even though the question was not on topic, I took the time to offer my suggestions, being I also happen to know how all that works.

I also added a cautionary comment to be careful of spamming, asking if they had permission to email these addresses. Of course, if they farmed them off of websites, they most certainly did not.

They confirmed that they planned on sending commercial emails to contacts that did not expressly or directly ask for information from them. I then commented on the dangers of doing so as it is against the law. Credible businesses that want to gain new customers do not spam.

I continued that they risk getting complaints to their hosting and email providers. These complaints then lead to being blacklisted. Credibility lost.

That’s when everything fell apart. How dare I assume they were spammers. I didn’t; I just mentioned to be careful. But, unfortunately, I work with clients every day who believe that publicly displayed email addresses give them cart blanch to email their business promotions to those who did not ask for their information.

Then came, “How can I sleep at night treating people this way?”

How can I sleep at night? Sheesh…

You Know What Happens When You Assume

I didn’t assume. I stressed a concern based on the information provided. So if you think about it, who is the one assuming here? I don’t appreciate being replied to in an inflammatory manner because I tried to offer advice based on the content of an inquiry.

As far as sleeping at night — I have no problem there, thank you very much.

As I always do, I tried to kindly smooth things over. However, an overreaction of this magnitude was not typical nor based on anything I typed. Assumptions were flying everywhere, with my character and experience being questioned using adjectives that were an overreaction. Verbiage that true professionals never use.

The lessons to be learned?

  • Make sure your emails are clear.
  • Do not assume the other side knows what you know but didn’t take the time to state.
  • Kindly clarify with the needed additional information if necessary.
  • Do not read into a reply what simply isn’t there.

Be Better Than That

If you are on the receiving end of an over-reactionary emailer, do your best to communicate with the clarity they were unable to offer you. However, if that doesn’t appease the inquirer, realize that some emails are just not worth taking your time to respond to.

To turn to insults and innuendo because you were not clear may have been innocently misunderstood, or because you may not like the advice given will do nothing but reflect on your lack of professionalism and integrity.

What have you done when you were misunderstood by someone who overreacted and responded with an insulting tone? Were you able to smooth things over? Let me know over on Twitter use #AMABizEmail or Faceybook.

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