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If You Do This, Your Emails Might Be Rude
How not to alienate your audience in 9 easy steps
When we walk up to introduce ourselves to strangers, we follow basic cultural norms of politeness. Don’t launch into a monologue about yourself. Don’t look over their shoulder to see if someone more important is nearby. Don’t invade their personal space, or you’ll be branded as a close talker.
Online, though, it’s still the Wild West. It’s easy to contact almost anyone: even many influential people are just a click away. And they’re often shocked by the everyday rudeness in cold emails and DMs. If you don’t want to alienate them, don’t ask strangers to…
1. Acknowledge that they received your email
Electronic return receipts are a thing of the past. Many people interpret them as a sign that you (a) have an inflated sense of your own worth, (b) suffer from paranoia, or (c) just emerged from a 20-year coma and haven’t heard of mailer-daemons and delivery status notifications. If your message goes unanswered, you can always resend it a week or two later: “Just making sure this came through!”
2. Share your content on social media
What if they don’t like it? A direct request to post puts people in an awkward position. It’s more respectful to just send your content along with a sentence about why it’s up their alley, and end it there. If they like it enough, they’ll share it—and they’ll do it more enthusiastically, because it’s based on intrinsic motivation rather than obligation.
3. Give feedback on something you’ve created
It’s an awful lot to ask a stranger to engage with your work and comment on it. Whereas feedback requires real effort, advice can be much less time-consuming. Try asking for guidance on a specific question or dilemma that you’re facing, and you’ll be more likely to get a response.
4. Jump on a call today or tomorrow
If you’re asking the favor, the onus is on you to be flexible. Ask if they might be willing to talk sometime, and let them suggest some times.
5. Name some times for a meeting
It’s a red flag when people feel entitled to a conversation. A friendlier option is to ask strangers if they’re willing to meet, or if there’s a more convenient way for them to communicate with you.
6. Introduce you to specific people in their networks
It’s not fair to ask people to put their relationships on the line for someone they don’t know. Instead, ask if they know anyone who might be a good source of insight on a particular topic.
After people reply to your initial message, don’t…
7. Email them daily—or even weekly
Stalker alert! People sometimes misinterpret a polite response as an offering of friendship. If you’re tempted to reach out regularly, try saving your points in a draft email, and then prune at the end of the month. Intermittent reinforcement can be a powerful thing.
8. Immediately introduce them to someone else
This can come across as using your newfound access to gain status or influence with the third party. The safe bet here is to simply ask for permission first: “I thought you two might enjoy a chat about ___. Are you interested in connecting?"
9. Invite them to collaborate
You just proposed marriage on the second date. Try having a dialogue first, and explore whether working together might prove mutually beneficial.
All I Ask Of You
Thanks for reading this post—I just have a few requests. Will you please like it so I know you read it, and share it on all of your social media platforms? I await your comments on the strengths of this post and how I could have improved it; let’s discuss by phone today.
I’ll drop by your office Monday for lunch. That will be the perfect time for you to introduce me to your boss’s boss.
To firm up the plans, I’ll check in with you again tomorrow. In the meantime, I’ve sent an email introducing you to my dentist. He's great, and I know you’ll be very interested in his work, so I gave him your cellphone number. Oh, and we should totally write something together—you’ll learn a lot from me.
Finally, please rate my wife on www.hotornot.com
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