It happens every day… Business onliners think they know what someone means based on how they choose to interpret the words in an email. 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 are inferring quite a bit more than you may realize. Jumping to incorrect conclusions in your business emails can cause embarrassment or show an inability to see the forest through the trees.
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 all 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 them on their project 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 that coveres 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.
Well, this reporter had received my automated response, that 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 in lieu of reading my site, that only “relevant site visitor emails about everyday email etiquette will be responded to”.
The next email from the reporter was accusatory and condescending. They clearly didn’t read the entire message and then chose to take my autoresponder personally. Didn’t I know who they were? Actually, no, I didn’t — I had never heard of them before.
Clearly this person was not asking off-line etiquette questions nor were they a student trying to avoid doing their homework. So why such a visceral reaction? They didn’t read the entire autoresponder. The root of most online misunderstandings — not reading emails in their entirety. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have jumped to this conclusion. They chose to put the message in the context of “She may not respond to ME? The nerve!”
This 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. By reading more into it than the words actually state. By putting their ego into a message that had nothing to do with them.
I learned something too. Well, more that I just took what I already knew — folks don’t read — and rearranged the text in my autoresponder. If there is a way for me to avoid misunderstandings, I’ll do the best I can!
Don’t Jump to Conclusions
There was no reason to jump to the conclusion this person did. I imagine they might have been a bit embarrassed when they discovered my personal response to them right after the autoresponder. They chose to flex their ego in a way that certainly didn’t leave them in an attractive light. While we proceeded with the interview via email, I was not offered an apology for their initial reaction. Which left me with a negative impression of them.
Read emails in their entirety. Don’t personalize things that clearly are not directed at you. If you are not sure of intent or tone, don’t accuse or assume — just kindly ask for clarification!