LinkedIn columnist Adam Grant’s 05.15.14 list of things not to do when communicating with strangers via email boils down to this: Don’t be pushy.
Which would be very civilized advice if parts of the long-form version of it didn’t sound so much like a Ray-Ban-wearing demimonde saying “talk to the hand.”
The fact that Grant appears to be someone chafing at the yoke of visibility notwithstanding, we’ve all felt versions of the discomfort he describes. Smaller versions, to be sure, but the Lord burdens us according to our abilities, amen?
Moreover,an oft and increasingly overlooked clause in the social contract is that sometimes we simply have to deal with each other. Press the digital flesh.
Unless we’re super busy, that is.
Here’s the first item on Grant’s list: Don’t ask strangers to acknowledge that they received your email. “If your message goes unanswered,” he says, “you can always resend it a couple of weeks later.”
(And you’d better have the witch’s broomstick with you when you do, you clinking clanking collection of caliginous junk.)
Okay, fine. If I email Wayne Newton or Adam Grant, I know there aren’t enough hours in the day for them to acknowledge every communication they receive and still get done the things they do that make me love them. When I go to the Christmas parade, I don’t expect Santa to climb down from his float and thank me personally for my attendance, either. As special as that might make me feel.
Non-rock stars, on the other hand, I hold to a different, ironically higher, standard. Just as I think it’s reasonable of passers-by to expect me to acknowledge in real time a spoken “Good morning”, I think it’s reasonable of first-time correspondents to expect me to acknowledge in very timely fashion a personal email.
And assuming that I’m not being asked to launder money or wear footie pajamas, I always do, especially if the message is concise and includes something to the effect of “Please just let me know that you received this.”
A simple “Got it. Will reply as soon as I can.” is all that’s necessary, for goodness sake.
But if I don’t acknowledge receipt, believe me, there’s no point in trying again in a couple of weeks. You’re asking me to either launder money or wear footie pajamas and I’ve already forwarded your email to the FBI.
Unless you’ve actually brought back the witch’s broomstick. Or you’re Wayne Newton. Or Adam West. I mean Grant.