It happens every day… Business onliners think they know what someone means based on how they interpret the words in an email. So they jump to a conclusion, many times incorrectly. That then leads to strained relationships and even terminated partnerships.
All because someone jumped to conclusions.
When you jump to conclusions, you infer quite a bit more than you may realize. Therefore, jumping to incorrect conclusions in your business emails can cause embarrassment or show an inability to communicate cognitively with the written word.
Let me share a recent situation with you.
I was contacted by an individual that wanted to do an interview for an article in a big-name magazine. I’ve done quite a few magazine and radio interviews. But even with that, there is no way for me to know who these reporters or writers are. (Or, as it was in this case, how important they think they are.)
As usual, I immediately replied in a professional, courteous, and helpful manner. I noted that I looked forward to working with the contact for the article with the details they had requested for us to hook up and chat.
Moments later, down comes a second email from this individual.
While this interview request was related to Business Email Etiquette issues, their request came through my other site covering everyday email etiquette. That site receives a healthy amount of inquiries that are either off-line etiquette questions (not email etiquette related) or, since teachers use my site as a reference, requests from students for the answers to their homework questions. So I have an autoresponder in place to address those inquiries.
Taking Generalities Personally
Well, this reporter had received my automated response, which states clearly in caps at the top that it is just that — “THIS IS AN AUTOMATED REPLY.” The autoresponder goes on to explain that due to all the spam, off-line etiquette questions, and email from students who want answers to their homework instead of reading my site, that only “relevant site visitor emails about everyday email etiquette will be responded to.”
The following email from the reporter was accusatory and condescending. It was clear she did not read the entire message and then chose to take my autoresponder personally. Didn’t I know who she was? Actually, no, I didn’t — I had never heard of her before.
This person was not asking off-line etiquette questions, nor were they students trying to avoid doing their homework. So why such a visceral reaction? Because they didn’t read the entire autoresponder.
What is at the root of most online misunderstandings? Not reading emails in their entirety. Or reading things into an email that just are not there.
Otherwise, this particular individual wouldn’t have jumped to the wrong conclusion. Instead, they chose to put the message in the context of “She may not respond to ME? The nerve!”
Here is a perfect example of how someone can read into an email what isn’t there or intended by not reading an email in its full context. Compounding that, this person proceeded to read more into it than the words actually stated. Then, they inserted their ego into a message that had nothing to do with them.
Misunderstandings = Opportunities
I learned something too. Not only amplifying the fact that many folks don’t read emails in their entirety but that I also need to make my message even more precise. So I reworded and rearranged the text in my autoresponder.
Every misunderstanding can be an opportunity to improve what is in your control to control. So if there is a way for me to avoid misunderstandings, I’ll do the best I can.
There was no reason to jump to the conclusion this person did. And I didn’t feel the need to the point that out. I took the high road and ignored her reactionary response. I imagine she might have been slightly embarrassed when she discovered my response to her right after the autoresponder.
She chose to flex her ego in a way that certainly didn’t portray herself in an attractive light. While we proceeded with the interview via email, I was not offered an apology for her initial overreaction, which left me with a negative impression.