Respond to me, please

by Xypher Pino

Last week, I sent an email to 20 different people asking a question for The Collegian. To my surprise, only one person responded. I thought to myself that the email could have just been sent at a wrong time or the recipients might have disliked the wording of the email. So, I restructured the wording and emailed the same 20 people once again. On top of that, I also emailed ten more people, just to get more responses. Disappointingly – only two people responded, meaning that out of the 30 people I emailed, only ten percent of them had written back. I was frustrated – how can I email so many people yet only get a couple responses? I never thought this was an issue until now as I thought it was common decency to respond to emails, especially those that require the recipient’s response. This prompted me to find out why people ignore messages in the first place and why it is important for people to learn proper email etiquette.

In 1971, Ray Tomlinson created the first emailing software. Ever since its creation, emails have only grown in popularity. During the 1980s and the 1990s, emails become prominent in various businesses and governments. Email technology kept improving and by the mid-1990s, the general public had the ability to send and receive emails themselves. According to various research and statistics, approximately 306 billion emails are sent and received by users everyday worldwide. Emails run and dominate the world. Whether you live in the US, in Europe or in Asia, you will encounter emails. Whether you plan to work in healthcare, in education or even in the entertainment industry, emails will be the number one form of communication.

Now, I am positive that you already knew how prominent emails are. Despite knowing how big of a role emailing plays in communication, why do so many people ignore their emails still? The average opening rate of an email is 20%, which is surprisingly low. There are many factors that contribute to this low percentage, but I want to focus on the mindset that people have towards emails.

“People do not like being ignored and we are aware that other people do not like being ignored. With emails though, if people do not see a benefit to responding, they will never respond. We forget to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes and think about how we would feel if our message was ignored,” said Caryn Atwater, Greensboro College’s Director of Career and Personal Development, when asked about why she thinks people ignore their emails.

I completely agree with Atwater’s statement. Unfortunately, most people only do certain things when they have something to gain from it. I am not shaming those people that do carry this mindset as it perfectly valid to have this approach in life, but it is disappointing to see this mindset and behavior be applied in so many little things. Why have this approach towards emails when emailing is also a form of communication, just a digital version? Imagine if there was a person that always had this mindset with in-person communication as well. When you approach that person and try to start a conversation with them, he or she will not say anything because there is no clear benefit that he or she could gain from that situation. Without a doubt, you would feel some type of way as you have just been ignored for no valid reason at all. This goes back to Atwater’s second point – we always forget that communication is always at least two-sided. The person that ignored you might think that what he or she just did to you was perfectly acceptable, but if someone were to do the same thing to them, he or she would feel the same way as you did when you were ignored. Understanding each person’s perspectives and considering everyone’s feelings and thoughts involved in communication is extremely important. Having this mindset towards emailing is harder compared to in-person communication as with emailing, it can seem like you are talking to a screen or a robot, not an actual person. Whether you do this consciously or unconsciously, it is important to remember that there is an actual human being behind every email that you receive. I know no one wants their message to be ignored, especially if it is of importance. If you constantly place yourself in other people’s shoes and always consider their perspective on things, not only will you approach emails and messages differently, you will also see the world in a whole new light.

Another thing that Atwater focused on was the importance of managing an email: “We need to train students about the importance of looking through email and the importance of appraising through it – delete this, unsubscribe from that, teach them how to mark things that are important to come back to, things such as that.” 

I only recently started doing this, and it has definitely made a big difference. Looking at my inbox feels less daunting and becomes more enjoyable as everything is organized and easy to locate. I have come to absolutely love emails as a result. Whenever I receive an email, especially if it is a message directly involving me and not just a campus-wide announcement or an auto-generated message, I feel special. It is the same thing whenever I send someone an email – I always find myself trying my hardest in making the email sound as professional as possible whilst inputting my personal authenticity into it. Emails provide me with extreme satisfaction. The amount of professionalism involved in emailing makes me feel like my thoughts and self actually matter. This is the result of proper email etiquette – my parents taught me the importance of emailing at a very early age and I am grateful for their lessons.

If you are unaware of what proper email etiquette is, it is never too late to learn. There are many resources available online that teaches the proper way to respond to emails, the perfect time to respond and the correct words and tone that you should be using. GC is even planning to host workshops in the future in hopes to educate students about email etiquette as Atwater said that faculty and staff at GC have “catered to the students’ inability to properly use their emails,” which in turn leads to students thinking that their current email habits are of the norm. She wants to prepare all GC students for their future endeavors and proper email etiquette is one of the most important things that students must be aware of if they are to excel in their careers.

To conclude, never forget that for every time that you get a message regarding anything, there is someone always waiting for your response. In the past, I know you have sent a snap to someone on Snapchat only for them to respond three to four hours later, when you have already forgotten what was in your snap. I know you have sent someone a funny Instagram post only for them to respond the next day, when you do not even find the post funny anymore. I know you have sent someone an important text message regarding an assignment that you needed to have finished by a due date, only for them to respond hours after you have already submitted the assignment. Nobody wants their messages to be ignored, and this same idea applies to emails as well. Remember the importance of proper email etiquette and how in every email that you receive, there is a human being that sent that email, waiting for your acknowledgement.


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