Friday, August 14, 2009

Formal Communications

So much of modern communication does not occur face to face. We're far more likely to write emails or text someone instead of talking to them in person. As a result, many of the nuances of communication that we transmit through body language are lost. A line written in jest for example, can be mistaken for an insult.

Recently, I've been getting some emails that made me realise that some people may be coming across unintentionally as being rude or overly familiar. This is not an exhaustive list of course, and I know that MY own emails (and blog posts) may sometimes come across the wrong way as well. I'm no Ms Manners, but here are some of the more common things that I have seen and thought I'd share with you.

1. If you're writing to a TC officer/city official/elected representative/condo or building manager/animal control officer/etc, keep it formal.

These people are not your personal friends, so please do not write to them as if they are. It is more appropriate to write to them as you would a business associate. You may of course eventually form a personal relationship, but if you are corresponding with them in terms of an official matter, then keep your language formal.

This means no 'text speak' - no abbreviations. Please do not type for example "i wld like 2 c u ASAP'. This just comes across as sloppy.

Also, I personally think that emoticons should be left out of official communications as much as possible. I can see one or two smiley faces but if your email reads "then the cats disappeared. :((((((" that might be a bit too much.

2. No mass mail/jokes/adoption notices

Again, please do not send a mass email about re-homing a kitten to your officer, for example. A possible exception : where you're trying to show what efforts you are taking to control the population in your area.

3. Keep communications to office hours as much as possible

Should someone you're meeting in an official capacity about the cats give you their handphone number, please do not abuse this. They have lives too - and they don't necessarily want to spend time speaking with you after office hours. If it's an emergency, then of course you may have to call after office hours. Alternatively, perhaps you have let your officer know that you are working too and can only call after you are done with work. In this case, please try and keep to reasonable hours. Phone calls regularly at eleven pm are not reasonable.

4. Stay contactable

Make sure that you are contactable and where possible, give people a variety of ways to get hold of you. For example, if you have email and a handphone, give BOTH. If you are not easily contactable, they may not bother to try again.

Also, there may be legitimate reasons you cannot be reached at certain times. For example, you might say that it is difficult/impossible for you to answer the phone/email while you are at work, but you will return their call/email as soon as you can if they leave you a message. However saying, "I'm a busy person so make sure you only call me at X am" puts people off. Everyone is busy - and a statement like that makes it seem as if you think that your time is more valuable than theirs.

5. Acknowledge emails/phone calls/actions

This is especially if you have written to ask for help or advice. If someone has taken the trouble to respond to you, then it is only polite to acknowledge that you've received it. A simple 'Thanks for your email' will often suffice.

If someone has gone to some trouble on your behalf, then a more in depth reply would be appropriate. No one enjoys the feeling of an email going into the black hole of the Internet never to be seen again :)

Obviously, there may be many occasions when YOU are on the end of an annoying email or the officer is playing hard to get. You call/email/leave messages and they never get replied to. I empathise, I really do. Unfortunately, there's little that can be done. I have always felt it would be nice that at least in the government service that there is the expectation of a reply within X number of hours. Unfortunately as well, in those cases, we see people who are rude getting the quickest service. The nasty complainant/the rude person who doesn't want the cats there. In that case, throw all this out the window :) Sadly, that just means it's a race to the bottom. I still contend that really rude emails to TCs should be ignored no matter who sends them - but I don't see that happening anytime soon.

In general though, people do respond to politeness. If you are polite, GENERALLY people are polite in return. If you are rude or even just abrasive, then it isn't a stretch to imagine people respond in kind.

Feel free to jump in with your own bugbears!

1 comment:

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