A version of this blog post appeared on the Bad Pitch Blog on October 5, 2011.
Practice deftness, not deafness
In a recent blog post, Chris Brogan describes a scenario familiar to anyone not living under a rock: “Today, I sheepishly deleted several e-mails ... that were waiting for a quick response ... Dozens. Maybe 100 overall. So that means almost 100 people got my attention, got me to read something, got me to think that maybe I should do something,” and then never heard back.
Why does this happen so often to so many? Brogan’s diagnosis is convincing: Because “we don’t fully understand the syntax of saying ‘no.’”
He offers a graceful example of how to construct this elusive sentence: “What you’re doing is important, and I’m very supportive of you, but I’m not able to take on what you’d like me to do because of my own full plate of commitments.”
In other words: Thanks, but no thanks.
A version of this blog post appeared on LindsayOlson.com on November 23, 2010.
In the current edition of her e-newsletter, Claire Kittle, who runs the Talent Market staffing agency, recounts an anecdote that immediately rang true for me. With Claire’s permission, I'm reprinting the story, which I’ve edited slightly.
I get dozens of applications every day, and you would be amazed to see how many seemingly intelligent candidates do not follow instructions. If I had to put a number on it, I’d estimate that 50% of applicants fail to send me what my clients request.
I used to give all candidates the benefit of the doubt. I would follow-up with them and ask for the information they neglected to send the first time. But I learned that those same candidates often still fail to follow instructions on the second (and third!) attempts, and worse—they frequently get belligerent about being asked for more information!
Here’s a sample scenario:
One month ago, I posted some thoughts on the pros and cons of communicating via e-mail. As promised, I’d like now to outline some best practices that have served me well (even if I’ve learned them the hard way).
Granted, some of these are idiosyncratic, so if you disagree or have additional insights, definitely please let me know.
I love e-mail. I think of it as I think of Google: I'd be lost without it. Indeed, with the exception of family and close friends and personal situations, I prefer communicating via my inbox.
I enjoy the challenge of converting my thoughts into words, of committing something to paper. Additionally, this process helps me to stay organized and helps to keep everyone accountable. Finally, e-mail allows me time to think before responding. For example: