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11 Things About Email You Might Not Know That Are Making You Awkward

11 Things About Email You Might Not Know That Are Making You Awkward

Are you aware of your email manners? Are you sure you’re not doing anything awkward when sending emails? Wait But Why has the answer here.

Email is one of those things that’s just a part of your life, period. Most of us know someone who has closed their Facebook account or refused to join in the first place in a little foot-stomping stand by their ego, and you might even know someone who is thrilled with themselves for not owning a smartphone.

But within the adult internet-using world, no one is allowed to not have email.

Not having email today would be the equivalent of not having a phone number—you’d have to bereally doing your own thing to go there.

And so here we all are, typing things into compose windows, battling down our inboxes, and it’s going pretty well—but like any world of social interaction, email has its difficulties.

Let’s discuss 11 particularly awkward things about our email lives—

1) Exchanges that have an unequal power dynamic.

unequal

    If someone you’re emailing with:

    • is making typos and you’re not
    • is skipping punctuation and you’re not
    • is skipping capitals and you’re not
    • is taking a long time to reply and you’re not
    • is responding to your long, well-written emails with much shorter responses

    Then they hate you.

    Unequal email power dynamics can happen for many reasons—a professional ladder discrepancy, an age discrepancy, a “customer’s always right” situation, a thing where many people are all emailing one person—but usually, it’s that the person writing the high-quality email wants/needs something from the person writing the low-quality email. Simple as that.

    2) Emailing with un-tech savvy Baby Boomers.

    Not all Baby Boomers—you know who I’m talking about.

    They’re the last remaining people with AOL email addresses. They scan a hard copy of an article and email it as an attachment instead of emailing a link to the article. They write the word e-mail with a hyphen in it. And they don’t know that “replying to all” is a thing that can happen in the world:

    reply to all 1 reply to all 2 reply to all 3 reply to all 4 reply to all 5 reply to all 6

      Sometimes, you’ll come across the especially un-tech savvy Baby Boomer who inexplicably writes their emails in all caps.

      all caps

        3) Emailing with anyone born before 1930.

        OLD

          To my grandmother, who tells me that her “machine is broken” when the browser window has accidentally been minimized, words like “forward” and “attachment” and “link” don’t have simple, concrete definitions—they’re just vague, complex ideas that she’s heard of but doesn’t understand.

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          She feels about email the way I feel about this sentence:

          Central banks in developing countries are tightening policy and intervening in currency markets in response to concerns about the potential effect of currency depreciation on inflation, though gross issuance of nonfinancial corporate bonds and commercial paper have slowed and interest volatility has substantially diminished, possibly suggesting that reaching-for-yield behavior might be increasing again.

          If you weren’t far too lazy to write a letter, it would be a good idea to stick to hand-written correspondence with people born in the 1920s, especially since there’s the side benefit that a letter from someone born in the 1920s will be a cool thing to own in 50 years.

          4) The group email chain Late Responder.

          late responder 1 late responder 2 late responder 3 late responder 4

            5) Figuring out how to address a minor friend in an email greeting.

            To make things easy, we at some point all agreed upon certain rules and regulations for how to address various categories of people that we email.

            Greeting

              Notice the problem?

              “Hi ____” is friendly in a distant, neutral, professional way for everyone you don’t know well. When your relationship with someone takes a step forward, it graduates to the warmer, more casual Hey Zone. And with really close people, you can just skip the greeting altogether—no one starts an email with “Hey Mom”.

              But how about that green zone category of people who are more than acquaintances—so greeting them with “Hey” would seem too formal and distant—but you don’t talk to them enough to just out of the blue email them and start talking without a greeting? How the hell are you supposed to start an email to that friend from college you talk to every two years or that old work colleague you became friends with and then fell mostly out of touch with?

              It’s not easy. And unlike all the other greetings, this one requires creativity. Some possibilities:

              – Hey John! — The exclamation point says, “This isn’t a normal Hey greeting—I’m smiling and extra excited because we’re pretty close, and our relationship is a positive thing in my life.”

              – Johnny! — A typical response greeting to the “Hey John!” email. It’s acknowledging that you’re on nickname terms, and also joining the celebration of your friendship with the exclamation point.

              – Hey man — This is something guy acquaintances or minor friends do to deal with being in the green zone. It’s the greeting version of a friendly back slap.

              – Sammmm — A girl tool to deal with the green zone.

              – Heyyy — The extra Y’s say, “Just swinging by to say something, and we’re friends so sometimes we just swing by.

              greeting2

                5b) Figuring out how to sign-off in an email to a minor friend.

                Similar situation. For the distant people, we have all sorts of autofills—Best, Regards, Talk soon, Take care, Thanks, etc.—and the really close people need no sign-off at all. But for minor friends, we’ve got another whole song and dance on our hands.

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                I’ll sometimes finish a minor friend email with something like, “Thanks,” and then look at it and think, “Ugh it’s too formal.” I then sigh, put the cursor at the end of the word, and begrudgingly type in two more S’s.

                It’s also worth noting that some people have decided that xoxo is an appropriate sign off because they’re just that adorable, and others just decided to start signing off with only the first letter of their name, because apparently we’re now dating. To me, both sign-offs make me think the person looks like this when they’re typing it:

                xoxo

                  6) Saying Robot Phrases, which reminds you that you’re not actually that unique a person.

                  A Robot Phrase is a commonly used email phrase that you end up using just because everyone else is using it and you’re not that creative a person.

                  robot phrases

                    These cookie-cutter Robot Phrases remind me of my voicemail recording being “Hi, you’ve reached Tim. Please leave a message.” The next thing that comes on is an actual robot that says “At the tone, please record your message yada yada,” and she and I are doing an equal job of expressing our individuality—but unfortunately, the only other option is to be an unnecessary weirdo by doing something surprising.

                    Email Robot Phrases are not quite as socially required as Voicemail Robot Recordings, but most of us are too lazy to deal with thinking up alternatives. Every single time I type one, though, I feel a slight twinge of self-loathing for being such a societal cog.

                    7) Mastering the exclamation point chess match.

                    With in-person interaction, we have a million subtle ways to express tone. Even on the phone, without the use of facial expressions or mannerisms, tone of voice gets the job done sufficiently.

                    But over email, we’re stuck with a crude set of symbols as our tools to express nuance, making punctuation a critical part of the email world. A few guidelines:

                    Some people don’t use exclamation points, and with those people, it’s safe to stick with periods.

                    periods

                      Others use them constantly, and with those people you’re a huge dick if you don’t, so you’re forced to join the party.

                      exclamations

                        This is important because to a rampant exclamation point user, the difference between a period and an exclamation point looks like this.

                        exclamation period

                          There’s also the rare but disastrous exclamation point / question mark mixup typo.

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                          exclamation question

                            I can go either way with exclamation points and tend to just follow the other person’s lead, but I find that this is a pretty strong correlation:

                            exclamation graph

                              Ellipses are a whole other thing. Some people use them to be mysterious or threatening, and of course, they can be massively slutty.

                              ellipses

                                8) The epic correspondence that neither involved party wants to be a part of.

                                epic correspondence

                                  This is a very odd phenomenon unique to email. It happens when two not-that-good friends find themselves stuck in the mutually-obligated chore of writing long descriptions of their lives to each other every few months. Both parties dread having to answer all the last email’s questions and write a lengthy life description, and each is pretty bored by the process of reading the other’s.

                                  This cycle either goes on until one of the people dies, or sometimes, someone finally gathers the guts to just not respond to the other’s email and then both parties can sigh a deep breath of relief.

                                  9) Trying to shove the concept of laughter into the email medium.

                                  haha

                                    Laughter is a delightful part of vocal correspondence, so we’ve decided we need to figure out a way to express the same thing over email—but it’s awkward.

                                    Absurd people who say lol aside, here’s what we’re dealing with:

                                    haha — I found this either mildly funny or not funny at all

                                    hahaha — I found this a little funny

                                    hahahaha — I found this reasonably funny

                                    HA or HAHA or HAHAHAHA — I found this very funny

                                    hahah or hahahah — I’m a very subpar human

                                    At least in my world, I find that when something is actually funny, it’ll result in capital letters.

                                    And in almost all of these cases, the recipient pictures the sender actually laughing as they type, when in fact they probably look like the guy in the picture above.

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                                    10) The fact that hurtful things are happening to you and you’re not thinking about it.

                                    hurtful

                                      Being humored by fake haha’s is just the beginning.

                                      You know how people sometimes BCC someone on an email they’re writing to secretly loop them in? You know what you don’t consider? The times when you’ve received an email from someone and there’s a BCC happening unbeknownst to you—when you’re the chump being spied on. Kind of upsetting right?

                                      How about the fact that you’re part of a number of group email chains, some one-time things and some that are recurring—and you kind of just assume that those are the only group chains happening. When in fact, there are a number of group chains between various friends or family members of yours that you are not included on, whose existence you never really consider.

                                      Worse, think about a time you’ve forwarded an email you received to someone else for mocking purposes. Kind of mean, but you’ve also kind of done it right? How bad is it that at some point, you’ve been the subject of the secret mocking forward?

                                      Luckily, we tend to avoid assuming these things are happening. But they’re happening.

                                      11) Email disasters.

                                      disaster
                                        disaster 2

                                          The email disaster is a special kind of disaster. It can be mortifying, hurtful, or even friendship-damaging.

                                          Examples include:

                                          – Emailing Person X to say something bad about Person Y and accidentally emailing it to Person Y instead.

                                          – Replying just to Person X on a group chain to say something private and accidentally replying to all.

                                          – Forwarding an email to someone and forgetting that below the email is a whole correspondence chain that has something sensitive in it, maybe even about the person you just forwarded it to.

                                          – Sending an attachment to someone and accidentally attaching the wrong horrifying thing.

                                          Other people’s email disaster stories are a great source of schadenfreude—so if you have a good one, please share in the comments.

                                          If you liked this article, subscribe by email to have Wait But Why’s once-a-week posts sent to you by email. Never any spam.
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                                          More by this author

                                          Anna Chui

                                          Anna is a communication expert and a life enthusiast. She's the editor of Lifehack and loves to write about love, life, and passion.

                                          7 Signs of an Unhappy Relationship That Makes You Feel Stuck 53 Relationship Questions That Will Make Your Love Life Better 27 Ways to Instantly Feel Better When You’re Down 35 Anniversary Ideas to Bring You Closer Together Narcissistic Personality: What Is It and How to Deal with a Narcissist?

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                                          Last Updated on September 20, 2018

                                          8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

                                          8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

                                          You go to the gym to train your muscles. You run outside or go for hikes to train your endurance. Or, maybe you do neither of those, but still wish you exercised more.

                                          Well, here is how to train one of the most important parts of your body: your brain.

                                          When you train your brain, you will:

                                          • Avoid embarrassing situations. You remember his face, but what was his name?
                                          • Be a faster learner in all sorts of different skills. No problem for you to pick up a new language or new management skill.
                                          • Avoid diseases that hit as you get older. Alzheimer’s will not be affecting you.

                                          So how to train your brain and improve your cognitive skills?

                                          1. Work your memory

                                          Twyla Tharp, a NYC-based renowned choreographer has come up with the following memory workout:

                                          When she watches one of her performances, she tries to remember the first twelve to fourteen corrections she wants to discuss with her cast without writing them down.

                                          If you think this is anything less than a feat, then think again. In her book The Creative Habit she says that most people cannot remember more than three.

                                          The practice of both remembering events or things and then discussing them with others has actually been supported by brain fitness studies.

                                          Memory activities that engage all levels of brain operation—receiving, remembering and thinking—help to improve the function of the brain.

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                                          Now, you may not have dancers to correct, but you may be required to give feedback on a presentation, or your friends may ask you what interesting things you saw at the museum. These are great opportunities to practically train your brain by flexing your memory muscles.

                                          What is the simplest way to help yourself remember what you see? Repetition.

                                          For example, say you just met someone new:

                                          “Hi, my name is George”

                                          Don’t just respond with, “Nice to meet you”. Instead, say, “Nice to meet you George.”

                                          Got it? Good.

                                          2. Do something different repeatedly

                                          By actually doing something new over and over again, your brain wires new pathways that help you do this new thing better and faster.

                                          Think back to when you were three years old. You surely were strong enough to hold a knife and a fork just fine. Yet, when you were eating all by yourself, you were creating a mess.

                                          It was not a matter of strength, you see. It was a matter of cultivating more and better neural pathways that would help you eat by yourself just like an adult does.

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                                          And guess what? With enough repetition you made that happen!

                                          But how does this apply to your life right now?

                                          Say you are a procrastinator. The more you don’t procrastinate, the more you teach your brain not to wait for the last minute to make things happen.

                                          Now, you might be thinking “Duh, if only not procrastinating could be that easy!”

                                          Well, it can be. By doing something really small, that you wouldn’t normally do, but is in the direction of getting that task done, you will start creating those new precious neural pathways.

                                          So if you have been postponing organizing your desk, just take one paper and put in its right place. Or, you can go even smaller. Look at one piece of paper and decide where to put it: Trash? Right cabinet? Another room? Give it to someone?

                                          You don’t actually need to clean up that paper; you only need to decide what you need to do with it.

                                          That’s how small you can start. And yet, those neural pathways are still being built. Gradually, you will transform yourself from a procrastinator to an in-the-moment action taker.

                                          3. Learn something new

                                          It might sound obvious, but the more you use your brain, the better its going to perform for you.

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                                          For example, learning a new instrument improves your skill of translating something you see (sheet music) to something you actually do (playing the instrument).

                                          Learning a new language exposes your brain to a different way of thinking, a different way of expressing yourself.

                                          You can even literally take it a step further, and learn how to dance. Studies indicate that learning to dance helps seniors avoid Alzheimer’s. Not bad, huh?

                                          4. Follow a brain training program

                                          The Internet world can help you improve your brain function while lazily sitting on your couch. A clinically proven program like BrainHQ can help you improve your memory, or think faster, by just following their brain training exercises.

                                          5. Work your body

                                          You knew this one was coming didn’t you? Yes indeed, exercise does not just work your body; it also improves the fitness of your brain.

                                          Even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions. But it’s not just that–exercise actually helps your brain create those new neural connections faster. You will learn faster, your alertness level will increase, and you get all that by moving your body.

                                          Now, if you are not already a regular exerciser, and already feel guilty that you are not helping your brain by exercising more, try a brain training exercise program like Exercise Bliss.

                                          Remember, just like we discussed in #2, by training your brain to do something new repeatedly, you are actually changing yourself permanently.

                                          6. Spend time with your loved ones

                                          If you want optimal cognitive abilities, then you’ve got to have meaningful relationships in your life.  Talking with others and engaging with your loved ones helps you think more clearly, and it can also lift your mood.

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                                          If you are an extrovert, this holds even more weight for you. At a class at Stanford University, I learned that extroverts actually use talking to other people as a way to understand and process their own thoughts.

                                          I remember that the teacher told us that after a personality test said she was an extrovert, she was surprised. She had always thought of herself as an introvert. But then, she realized how much talking to others helped her frame her own thoughts, so she accepted her new-found status as an extrovert.

                                          7. Avoid crossword puzzles

                                          Many of us, when we think of brain fitness, think of crossword puzzles. And it’s true–crossword puzzles do improve our fluency, yet studies show they are not enough by themselves.

                                          Are they fun? Yes. Do they sharpen your brain? Not really.

                                          Of course, if you are doing this for fun, then by all means go ahead. If you are doing it for brain fitness, then you might want to choose another activity

                                          8. Eat right – and make sure dark chocolate is included

                                          Foods like fish, fruits, and vegetables help your brain perform optimally. Yet, you might not know that dark chocolate gives your brain a good boost as well.

                                          When you eat chocolate, your brain produces dopamine. And dopamine helps you learn faster and remember better. Not to mention, chocolate contains flavonols, antioxidants, which also improve your brain functions.

                                          So next time you have something difficult to do, make sure you grab a bite or two of dark chocolate!

                                          The bottom line

                                          Now that you know how to train your brain, it’s actually time to start doing.

                                          Don’t just consume this content and then go on with your life as if nothing has changed. Put this knowledge into action and become smarter than ever!

                                          Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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