Knock Knock………anybody home
By Umer Raza Bhutta
The machine, at which you are reading this article, has made communicating easy and effortless with each other. We need to have email ID or the cell number of the person with whom we wish to communicate and we are through. But according to the theories of the communication a true communication is only done when it is two way. It becomes two-way when the recipient also responds to the message. However, even after the ease of getting back to someone or answering to a message, still there are incidences whereby connecting with someone or getting back to any one becomes a matter of self prestige and honor. By this I mean, when we send an email or SMS to any one, we expect a reply from the person to whom it is sent, whereas sometimes such communication that requires an answer from the recipient does not get due attention, unless it is sent by someone who is one step ahead in the organizational hierarchy (i.e. anyone who is in such a position to control the recipient near future) and/or someone who is extremely important in life. Sometimes receiving a message/email becomes annoying as well, this is true especially with the HR and senior staff, who get many resumes and requests for training programs and invitations to attend any forum/meeting through emails. Replying to any such email from a “SAWALI” (a needy person) is considered as, going down from one’s level. The usual mantra is “I am not free to answer such emails or messages”.
On the other hand while looking at the other side of the picture this is a blatant disregard to a person who is knocking at your door. Just take an example, you are sitting in your home and the door bell rings, will you stay there and do not answer or will you get up and look at the door. Now, when it comes to knocking at one’s email account or cell phone through SMS, the expectation from the sender is of an acknowledgment at least. I am referring specially to such emails that are subject as “CV”, “looking for a job”, etc. Our HR people and senior staff members do get such emails regularly and if they ignore these they knowingly or unknowingly become part of the arrogant elite. Any one when says Salam to you at seeing you, courtesy demands that you revert back with at least a smile “that shows your acknowledgment”. But in our daily lives we observe many such events when our emails are not answered, sms is not replied back or phone calls are not attended and/or call back is not done. This is a simple courtesy that a civilized society or a professional manner demands.
At the same time a person who met you and promised to send you an email and then he kept his promise (be it a proposal or an introductory email or a resume or an information), at least what he requires is an acknowledgment that the message is received. This is not a difficult demand and I can quote two examples below of the people who are known to be very busy yet they respond back. One is, the CEO of a large multinational company. He has an impeccable record of replying back within 24 hours of receiving an email/message etc. He is amongst the most senior people around, heading almost 7 to 8 entities in Pakistan and abroad and gets hundreds of emails. I have observed over the years that whenever, I sent him an email I got his response and/or self written acknowledgment within 24 hours, mostly this response is even earlier and within 12 hours. Many of my other colleagues also have similar experience with him.
Another unique example that I got just few days ago is Mr. Talat Hussain, (I have used his name with his permission) known TV Anchor and Journalist. I just wrote him an email, email was very long and on a specific issue of common concern. His response, in detail, was received within 12 hours. I was not expecting it but he actually amazed me. That is why these people command respect from all. Without any annoyance to any one, at the same time there are examples from many other people whom I know personally and sent them emails, messages or called but could not get any response. A simple courtesy demands that you Say “Waalikumassalam” to anyone who says Assalamualikum to you.
Let’s not close it here and let me also give few suggestions to cover up this small thing in our daily routine.
When you receive an email:
If it is a resume, job application, or any such request
Just hit the reply button, type “Received and if you are shortlisted we will get back to you”. This exercise took just 15 seconds. And if you are even quick in typing or have any other short key it may take even lesser time. There can be many other options such as “Received and currently we do not have any open positions” “Your resume received” etc.
If this email does not concern you, but to any other person in any other department.
Just hit the reply button, add the email of the person, to whom it may concern, and send. By hitting the reply button you have actually also acknowledged the person who sent the email and shown him the correct side (an added advantage of you being a professional).
If it is just information from someone and especially to you: Evaluate the information and reply back appropriately, just simple thanks for providing you with the information, may suffice. You can be as brief as possible. You do not need to get into many details at this stage.
If the email is lengthy and you want to answer in detail but later: Drop back an email and let the person know that you have got the mail and you will get back in a specified time with your response. (and then keep up to your promise)
If the email is from an unknown person but is an invitation: Still it is a knock at the door and may open an avenue to make a new connection or to learn something new. If you cannot attend you may just acknowledge with your inability to attend. “Received your mail, however, I cannot come at the given time thanks for inviting”. It took again just 15 seconds to write this simple line. Your reply can even be shorter (or depending upon your time can be longer).
If the email is from a known person: A simple of rule of courtesy is to respond back at least.
If the email is from an unknown person and you are amongst the many recipients of the email: You are not an exclusive recipient of the email but are among many others who received the email. You can acknowledge the email with the appropriate reply according to the original email. If you reply you might be the only one and now you can become exclusive.
If the email is from an unknown person and it is a marketing email, whereby you are required to spend money to get through: Such emails are only taken positively when they are of your need, or they have created a need in you after you received it. You may or may not answer such emails, as neither they’re only addressed to you nor they are free. Most such examples are mass marketing emails of any product or service. If you feel annoyed by such emails, you can revert back to the sender of the email by asking them to exclude you from their mailing list, otherwise just hook on and you are not under any binding to reply back.
If you receive a linkedin or Facebook Friend Request: These are also very common these days. There may be many friend and linkedin connection requests in your in box (if you are a known professional or have a bigger designation mentioned with your name). A friend once told me that he uses a counter email/response technique in this. He neither refuses to the request nor keeps it hanging, he politely reverts back and asks “Do I know you and how do you know me” on the basis and quality of the answer he keeps them in his friends list or otherwise. But he does not keep the request hanging.
Similar etiquettes apply to the SMS, however, there I will leave the door open as every SMS costs (though minimal), however not as much as not replying.
In this article I have written about the etiquettes for recipients of email and messages but there are many areas where the senders also need to observe certain etiquettes. In my next article I will take you towards the sender’s side.