Beware of Superhighway Potholes!

When I began speaking professionally years ago, I never imagined I would book an engagement without first talking with the meeting planner either on the phone or in-person. When I began paying bills even longer ago, I never imagined I would do so in a manner that did not involve either the mail or a personal visit. The Internet and e-mail have changed all of that.
Now, quite frequently, I don’t talk with a meeting planner until after the engagement is booked with the exchange of e-mail messages. And, like many of you, I have become accustomed to the ease and convenience of paying bills online. As the old colloquialism asks, “Whoever would have thunk?”
E-mail is a valuable element of the Information Superhighway that has quickly changed the way the entire world does business. Interoffice memos are sent regularly and virtual offices have sprung up by the thousands. One large company downsized its locations from 850 to 150 by putting sales and sales support personnel on the road and providing them with laptop computers and cellular phones. It saved the company 70 million dollars while increasing productivity.
E-mail is a great way to communicate with people. It can also be dangerous. Make sure you convey what you intend, in as few words and as straight to the point as possible. Horror stories have surfaced as a result of poor usage. The entire Internet is paved with possibilities, but full of potholes. E-mail becomes one of the potholes when used incorrectly. Here are some tips excerpted from “Are We Communicating Yet?” that can help insure your computer communication is effective:
* Keep in mind that receivers can’t hear the tone, inflection, or any type of meaning in your words. What you intend to be humorous may come across as offensive; serious comments may be brushed aside; compliments may seem like complaints.
* Some people consider the use of all CAPS equivalent to shouting at someone when talking in-person. When some people receive such a message (which is often in bold) they may feel like someone is either preaching, being discourteous or simply doesn’t know much about e-mail.
* Use the blind copy (bcc) rather than the regular copy (cc) unless there’s some reason for the receiver to see the names and e-mail addresses of others to whom the message is sent. If there is no reason, then you need to protect the privacy of others. Improper copying also takes up space – sometimes a lot of space.
* Reformat messages you forward to others. Receiving disoriented messages full of >>>>> makes them hard to read and, again, takes up space. The little time demanded in order to remove the >>>>> with a word processing function will lead to easier reading and greater respect from your recipients.
* Count to more than 10 before dashing off a message with strong emotions. If you are responding to an e-mail or some other situation, speed can become a pothole. “Quick trigger” messages have caused hard feelings and broken relationships.
* Change the “subject” line when the topic has been changed. Often, after several e-mail exchanges, the topic has moved from the original subject. It is easier to keep track of mail if the subject line has been changed to reflect the new subject.
* Don’t expect an immediate reply unless the receiver knows you want it. The receiver could be unavailable. Also, some people check e-mail infrequently. If you’re out of the office, an autoresponder can be used to inform others you will get back to them.
* Delete trailing messages. Many e-mail programs automatically include the message to which you are replying. But if that was a reply, then your previous message trails below it, and below it is the previous message, and so on. Erasing all but the last message is usually more efficient.
* Don’t forward messages just because someone asks you to. I don’t know how many times I have received an “important” chain letter only to be notified later to disregard it because it turned out to be a hoax. Use your own judgment in forwarding inspirational or humorous messages. (Of course, if someone sends you this column, be sure to pass it along.)
Carl Mays, author of over a dozen books and speaker at over 3,000 events, can be contacted at 865-436-7478 or His books, including A Strategy For Winning, People of Passion, Anatomy Of A Leader, Are We Communicating Yet? and Winning Thoughts, are available in stores, on and


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