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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.

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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.

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                                          Last Updated on March 21, 2019

                                          11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

                                          11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

                                          Most gurus talk about habits in a way that doesn’t help you:

                                          You need to push yourself more. You can’t be lazy. You need to wake up at 5 am. You need more motivation. You can never fail…blah blah “insert more gibberish here.”

                                          But let me share with you the unconventional truths I found out:

                                          To build and change habits, you don’t need motivation or wake up at 5 am. Heck, you can fail multiple times, be lazy, have no motivation and still pull it off with ease.

                                          It’s quite simple and easy to do, especially with the following list I’m going to show to you. But remember, Jim Rohn used to say,

                                          “What is simple and easy to do is also simple and easy not to do.”

                                          The important things to remember when changing your habits are both simple and easy, just don’t think that they don’t make any difference because they do.

                                          In fact, they are the only things that make a difference.

                                          Let’s see what those small things are, shall we?

                                          1. Start Small

                                          The biggest mistake I see people doing with habits is by going big. You don’t go big…ever. You start small with your habits.

                                          Want to grow a book reading habit? Don’t start reading a book a day. Start with 10 pages a day.

                                          Want to become a writer? Don’t start writing 10,000 words a day. Start with 300 words.

                                          Want to lose weight? Don’t stop eating ice cream. Eat one less ball of it.

                                          Whatever it is, you need to start small. Starting big always leads to failure. It has to, because it’s not sustainable.

                                          Start small. How small? The amount needs to be in your comfort zone. So if you think that reading 20 pages of a book is a bit too much, start with 10 or 5.

                                          It needs to appear easy and be easy to do.

                                          Do less today to do more in a year.

                                          2. Stay Small

                                          There is a notion of Kaizen which means continuous improvement. They use this notion in habits where they tell you to start with reading 1 page of a book a day and then gradually increase the amount you do over time.

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                                          But the problem with this approach is the end line — where the “improvement” stops.

                                          If I go from reading 1 page of a book a day and gradually reach 75 and 100, when do I stop? When I reach 1 book a day? That is just absurd.

                                          When you start a habit, stay at it in the intensity you have decided. Don’t push yourself for more.

                                          I started reading 20 pages of a book a day. It’s been more than 2 years now and I’ve read 101 books in that period. There is no way I will increase the number in the future.

                                          Why?

                                          Because reading 40 to 50 books a year is enough.

                                          The same thing applies to every other habit out there.

                                          Pick a (small) number and stay at it.

                                          3. Bad Days Are 100 Percent Occurrence

                                          No matter how great you are, you will have bad days where you won’t do your habit. Period.

                                          There is no way of going around this. So it’s better to prepare yourself for when that happens instead of thinking that it won’t ever happen.

                                          What I do when I miss a day of my habit(s) is that I try to bounce back the next day while trying to do habits for both of those days.

                                          Example for that is if I read 20 pages of a book a day and I miss a day, the next day I will have to read 40 pages of a book. If I miss writing 500 words, the next day I need to write 1000.

                                          This is a really important point we will discuss later on rewards and punishments.

                                          This is how I prepare for the bad days when I skip my habit(s) and it’s a model you should take as well.

                                          4. Those Who Track It, Hack It

                                          When you track an activity, you can objectively tell what you did in the past days, weeks, months, and years. If you don’t track, you will for sure forget everything you did.

                                          There are many different ways you can track your activities today, from Habitica to a simple Excel sheet that I use, to even a Whatsapp Tracker.

                                          Peter Drucker said,

                                          “What you track is what you do.”

                                          So track it to do it — it really helps.

                                          But tracking is accompanied by one more easy activity — measuring.

                                          5. Measure Once, Do Twice

                                          Peter Drucker also said,

                                          “What you measure is what you improve.”

                                          So alongside my tracker, I have numbers with which I measure doses of daily activities:

                                          For reading, it’s 20 pages.
                                          For writing, it’s 500 words.
                                          For the gym, it’s 1 (I went) or 0 (didn’t go).
                                          For budgeting, it’s writing down the incomes and expenses.

                                          Tracking and measuring go hand in hand, they take less than 20 seconds a day but they create so much momentum that it’s unbelievable.

                                          6. All Days Make a Difference

                                          Will one day in the gym make you fit? It won’t.

                                          Will two? They won’t.

                                          Will three? They won’t.

                                          Which means that a single gym session won’t make you fit. But after 100 gym sessions, you will look and feel fit.

                                          What happened? Which one made you fit?

                                          The answer to this (Sorites paradox)[1] is that no single gym session made you fit, they all did.

                                          No single day makes a difference, but when combined, they all do. So trust the process and keep on going (small).

                                          7. They Are Never Fully Automated

                                          Gurus tell you that habits become automatic. And yes, some of them do, like showering a certain way of brushing your teeth.

                                          But some habits don’t become automatic, they become a lifestyle.

                                          What I mean by that is that you won’t automatically “wake up” in the gym and wonder how you got there.

                                          It will just become a part of your lifestyle.

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                                          The difference is that you do the first one automatically, without conscious thought, while the other is a part of how you live your life.

                                          It’s not automatic, but it’s a decision you don’t ponder on or think about — you simply do it.

                                          It will become easy at a certain point, but they will never become fully automated.

                                          8. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

                                          Marshall Goldsmith has a great book with the same title to it. The phrase means that sometimes, you will need to ditch certain habits to make room for other ones which will bring you to the next step.

                                          Don’t be afraid to evolve your habits when you sense that they don’t bring you where you want to go.

                                          When I started reading, it was about reading business and tactic books. But two years into it, I switched to philosophy books which don’t teach me anything “applicable,” but instead teach me how to think.

                                          The most important ability of the 21st century is the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn. The strongest tree is the willow tree – not because it has the strongest root or biggest trunk, but because it is flexible enough to endure and sustain anything.

                                          Be like a willow, adapting to the new ways of doing things.

                                          9. Set a Goal and Then Forget It

                                          The most successful of us know what they want to achieve, but they don’t focus on it.

                                          Sounds paradoxical? You’re right, it does. But here is the logic behind it.

                                          You need to have a goal of doing something – “I want to become a healthy individual” – and then, you need to reverse engineer how to get there with your habits- “I will go to the gym four times a week.”

                                          But once you have your goal, you need to “forget” about it and only focus on the process. Because you are working on the process of becoming healthy and it’s always in the making. You will only be as healthy as you take care of your body.

                                          So you have a goal which isn’t static but keeps on moving.

                                          If you went to the gym 150 times year and you hit your goal, what would you do then? You would stop going to the gym.

                                          This is why goal-oriented people experience yo-yo effect[2] and why process-oriented people don’t.

                                          The difference between process-oriented and goal-oriented people is that the first focus on daily actions while others only focus on the reward at the finish line.

                                          Set a goal but then forget about it and reap massive awards.

                                          10. Punish Yourself

                                          Last two sections are pure Pavlovian – you need to punish bad behavior and reward good behavior. You are the only person who decides what is good and what is bad for you, but when you do, you need to rigorously follow that.

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                                          I’ve told you in point #3 about bad days and how after one occurs, I do double the work on the next day. That is one of my forms of punishments.

                                          It’s the need to tell your brain that certain behaviors are unacceptable and that they lead to bad outcomes. That’s what punishments are for.

                                          You want to tell your brain that there are real consequences to missing your daily habits.[3]

                                          No favorite food to eat or favorite show to watch or going to the cinema for a new Marvel movie- none, zero, zilch.

                                          The brain will remember these bad feelings and will try to avoid the behaviors that led to them as much as possible.

                                          But don’t forget the other side of the same coin.

                                          11. Reward Yourself

                                          When you follow and execute on your plan, reward yourself. It’s how the brain knows that you did something good.

                                          Whenever I finish one of my habits for the day, I open my tracker (who am I kidding, I always keep it open on my desktop) and fill it with a number. As soon as I finish reading 20 pages of a book a day (or a bit more), I open the tracker and write the number down.

                                          The cell becomes green and gives me an instant boost of endorphin – a great success for the day. Then, it becomes all about not breaking the chain and having as many green fields as possible.

                                          After 100 days, I crunch some numbers and see how I did.

                                          If I have less than 10 cheat days, I reward myself with a great meal in a restaurant. You can create your own rewards and they can be daily, weekly, monthly or any arbitrary time table that you create.

                                          Primoz Bozic, a productivity coach, has gold, silver, and bronze medals as his reward system.[4]

                                          If you’re having problems creating a system which works for you, contact me via email and we can discuss specifics.

                                          In the End, It Matters

                                          What you do matters not only to you but to the people around you.

                                          When you increase the quality of your life, you indirectly increase the quality of life of people around you. And sometimes, that is all the “motivation” we need to start.

                                          And that’s the best quote for the end of this article:

                                          “Motivation gets you started, but habits keep you going.”

                                          Keep going.

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                                          More Resources to Help You Build Habits

                                          Featured photo credit: Anete Lūsiņa via unsplash.com

                                          Reference

                                          [1] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Sorites paradox
                                          [2] Muscle Zone: What causes yo-yo effect and how to avoid it?
                                          [3] Growth Habits: 5 Missteps That Cause You To Quit Building A Habit
                                          [4] Primoz Bozic: The Lean Review: How to Plan Your 2019 in 20 Minutes

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