Pet Peeve- Reply All; Digital Etiquette Matters

It happens too often; you get an email sent to multiple people setting up a meeting or providing information about something. There’s always one person who hits ‘reply all.’ How many times does that ‘reply all’ message just read “Thanks.” replyallOr worse – is a long message about why they can’t make the meeting because they have to pick their young son up from soccer, then run their daughter to piano lessons, then they have to go food shopping. I hear you yelling, “WHO CARES?” Well, making excuses is another topic; for now, back to the ‘reply all.’

In my business communications class at Rutgers-Camden there are a myriad of topics we discuss. It seems that the ‘reply all’ conundrum is something that continues to be a problem. Why is it that in this age of digital messages many of us can not train ourselves to be more attentive to replying to emails?

Compare this mistake to back in the day when you actually called someone on the phone rather than send an email. Would you just call the person holding the meeting to let them know you couldn’t make it – or would you call everyone involved? well, of course – just the team leader needs to know you couldn’t be there.

How do you stop from accidentally replying to EVERYONE on an email list? Simply breathe; take your time. Pay closer attention to what you are doing. If you are completely rushed – step AWAY from the keyboard. As my mom used to tell me all the time, “Watch what you’re doing.”

This ‘reply all’ problem is complicated when you reply to emails on your Smart phone. Everything is smaller and not exactly change-wp7-email-signaturethe same as your computer keyboard. All the more reason to TAKE-YOUR-TIME. Make a rule of thumb: don’t reply to emails while you are in the car at red lights. WAIT until you have a few moments to concentrate on your digital etiquette.

Another pet peeve: be sure you have a businesslike email signature on your Smart phone, tablet or iPad. Do you really have to advertise that you wrote the message on your Samsung phone? Go into ‘settings’ and set up your email signature properly with your name, title, etc. DELETE the advertisement for the type of phone you have.

Just like when we were little and we were taught to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you,’ it’s time to learn more digital etiquette.

The Written Word

The Written Word

When your children and your children’s children go through the family things some day, what will they find? Perhaps not our generation, but surely our children’s generation one thing that will not be passed down is the written word.

oldlettersOver the weekend, I hauled into the house from an old desk stored in the garage, a drawer filled with my life. Most of what was stowed away for years was from the early years in my radio career, but I also discovered high school memorabilia I thought was long gone – and frankly, I hadn’t even thought about it for decades. What I found that was most meaningful, were cards and letters from friends and family members.

There’s a letter from my ‘mom-mom’ who died in 1995. The letter is dated December 31, 1981. She tucked into the note another note that she received from a niece of my late grandfather. She listened to me on the radio back then and was so glad to have that connection. My grandmother wrote how proud she was of me.

A letter from my elementary school gym teacher dated November 10, 1981 wrote of how he and my other two favorite teachers had formed a ‘fan’ club and how they too, were listening to me on WMGK and were proud. I found letters from radio fans who talked about their lives and how connected they felt listening to me and the people I worked with. Most important were all the letters my brother wrote me when he was in the Air Force. This was in the early to mid 1980’s. These letters are particularly significant because my brother suffered a life-changing accident during his time in the Air Force and lost the use of his right arm. The letters he wrote before the accident describe his homesickness as well as the fun he was having seeing other places and meeting new people. He ultimately me his wife – and they lived happily ever after. But it was emotional for me to read the handwriting he had before the accident. He learned how to use his left hand and has done extremely well over the past 20+ years.

What will the next generation have to look through when they look at their history? Emails, documents, blog posts like this, a Google search. The written word – putting pen to paper – is often from our hearts and minds. The physical act of writing, not typing, is somehow therapeutic.  While writers today do indeed express themselves well by typing words, too often a majority of people so dislike writing that they shorten everything down. “R u going 2nite? OMG me 2. C u l8tr.”

When I work with clients and we are able to get media coverage, I always encourage them to write a ‘thank you’ to the reporter. If they want to type out an email, that’s OK, but looking at these files of handwritten cards I have – many of then ‘thank yous,’ I am so incredibly glad I’m a little bit of a pack rat. For me, there’s nothing like a personal card that someone had to choose or just find that blank sheet of paper to write a thoughtful few lines or more to offer their thanks.

The letters from my grandmother and my brother and some friends are a part of me. They describe personal history that was going on back then and how they were interwoven in my life. My grandmother has been gone for years, but to read these letters I found makes me know that she was a part of me – and I of her. I can hear her laughing right now – probably after telling a dirty joke.

Consider writing a card the next time you need to get in touch with someone. It’s worth the time and effort; and on the other end of that card, there is probably a friend, family member, colleague or someone you listen to, who will tuck that card in a file for safe keeping.

 

The Art of the Thank You

You know the saying, “Everything I need to know I learned in kindergarten?” This is so true. We learn the alphabet; how to count; we learn ‘please’ and ‘thank you.’ Parents reinforce those lessons at home (hopefully). There is a lost art: writing ‘thank you’ notes. There is a wonderful CBS segment on writing ‘thank yous.’ Spend a few minutes and watch the segment – it will get you thinking – remembering HOW to write ‘thank yous’ and perhaps inspire you to pick up a pen (remember those) every now and then.

In the snail mail today, we received thank you notes from our nephews and niece for the holiday gifts we shared in December. Oh, the smile on my face after I read these precious words. I hope you enjoy them as well.

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The Art of Letter-Writing

With respect to the greeting card industry, I have never found a sympathy card that truly reflects my thoughts or feelings about the dearly departed. Sometime between the time I attended my first viewing and when a co-worker’s baby died, I realized I had a knack for expressing condolences in a personal, heartfelt way.

Teaching my class business communications sometimes feels like that proverbial salmon swimming upstream. The mainly twenty-somethings are so intent on texting, emailing and using whatever shorthand they can find, most have never written a heartfelt, handwritten note. When I was growing up, I went to Girl Scout camp. I wrote letters home; my mom wrote back (never my dad) and I remember a boyfriend who also wrote to me and I him. I still have a shoebox stashed in the attic with those handwritten missives.

The other night in class, I was telling the students what an art it is to receive a heartfelt note. While handwritten is best, it’s also a talent to be able to sit at the keyboard and write a letter that includes a memory, a story, or a moment in time that brings a smile to the reader’s face and maybe brightens their day.  Losing a co-worker to an accident or a business associate dying suddenly are examples of why you would have to write a letter of condolence. The looks on my students faces ranged from, “not me – I’ll never have to write THAT letter,” to a look of sheer terror – “WHAT would I EVER say?” I explained that again, you are writing to the reader. You want to make that person feel a little better, if only for the time it takes to read the few paragraphs.

I remember when two married co-workers lost their baby. He’d been sick from the moment he was born and fought for a while, but he died. While I was driving to work shortly before the baby’s death, for some reason I had to drive to work a different way. I remember seeing in the sky above the road a formation of clouds in a circle that seemed to create an opening. At that moment, I felt as though the baby was being called from above – for his suffering to end and he was walking into the heavens above. I wrote something like that to the parents in hopes that they could find some peace.

Maybe you remember a great joke the person told or how they had a fantastic laugh; maybe the person wasn’t so nice but had a terrific knack for organizing events or meetings. Tell the story you know in a brief and heartfelt way and the reader will appreciate your effort.

Meantime, I really wish people would get back to writing cards and letters. The U.S. Postal Service is billions of dollars in the red. Hardly anyone writes cards or letters anymore. The impersonal email has taken over. You barely get a printed birthday card anymore. People send those completely ridiculous e-cards. At the holidays, you may get a batch of greeting cards with a family’s yearly letter – we even send one. I’m wondering how long holiday cards will last and people resort to sending e-holiday greetings.

Perhaps you’ve never written a letter or sympathy card from scratch. You probably have those thoughts churning in your brain. The next time the occasion calls for it, think about pulling out a blank card or notepaper from the desk. You may have to dig deep in the back of a drawer, but I bet that note card is there. It’ll take you a few moments. The results will be straight from your heart – to the reader’s. Now, excuse me while I write to my nephew who’s looking for my next letter.